For a record with a title like Palms, it sure starts out in a dark direction. Palms evoke images of sunshine, tropical climate, and even Palm Sunday in the Bible. Perhaps the latter is the point—behind all the fanfare of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, He bore the knowledge that the darkest experience He—or anyone—would ever face, was looming less than a week away.
Am I wrong about the metaphor tie in? Probably. But the dichotomy of light and dark and the symbols that tie to each side is timeless. Yet, this symbolism doesn’t exist on a binary. To make another biblical reference, the Devil has been called an “angel of light” and the Morning Star. The lesson here is that vigilance is imperative, and that even what we think to be true might not be what it seems. Long time fans of Thrice may have read recently that Dustin Kensrue has been navigating a season of doubt and transformation in his personal theology. While I don’t believe it’s my business to pick apart or critique his journey (although I may want to) I’ll say that he is not-so-subtly channeling this lesson through the music. As a guy who has always been more of a instrumentation and melody guy rather than a lyrics person, I would offer you can sense this through the feel of the record alone. The bombastic drums of “The Dark” and the driving bass line of “A Branch in the River” offer perhaps the most straightforward personification of conflict on the record, and the fun Stranger Things-esque analog synth (apologies, Thrice, for probably the 100th time you’ve read that about that song) expresses anticipation and expectation of resolution of said conflict. We hear some expression of that resolution in the surprisingly lush “Blood on Blood.”
As someone who became a Thrice fan by listening to The Artist in the Ambulance, I don’t relate to the “Deadbolt” fanboys all that much. Yet, I feel this record deserves some discussion about its place in the Thrice canon nonetheless. Most of the record will come as no surprise to the average Thrice fan. There are a few unexpected moments that are a stretch for the band, but it comes across in the context of a natural progression rather than an outright deviation from the norm. We also get some good old fashioned Thrice anthems—”The Grey” being an obvious example. Thrice will never go back to their original post-hardcore sound, but they exhibit their most versatile record in years here.
Palms, I have no doubt, will continue to grow on me as I peel back the layers. Take a listen.