Vhiessu, by Thrice
Suggested by Rob Wagner
“Vhiessu… that’s an odd word. I’ll bet there’s a cool story behind it!”
What could it be? My mind started fizzing. There’s an oddly-placed H, which gives the reader pause as they encounter it, stopping to swirl the letters around the mouth in experimentation, like a fine cognac or a Fruit Pastille. Vhiessu… wind whistling through the trees, perhaps, or maybe an archaic name for Jesus or God? It certainly has a biblical quality, somehow.
Perhaps it’s the name of something conceptual, like Karma. Or something emotive, like ennui. Or it could be the name of a historic Persian general, undefeated in battle! Full of intrigue, I checked Wiki, Which was, irritatingly, sparse. The band chose the word after seeing its use as a name in a book by Thomas Pynchon, and thinking it was “pretty.” Nonplussed, I head to Google. It had to mean something, right?
Googling Vheissu links to… this album. Adding “definition” to the search brings nothing more. Definitions.net defines thusly: “Vheissu (pronounced “vee-sue”) is the fourth studio album by American rock band Thrice.” In desperation, I hit a site that looks to use the given word in a sentence by scouring the net for examples. Of the seven it returned, a full five were discussing the album, the sixth was discussing it being in a Thomas Pynchon book, and the seventh was simply “It’s difficult to see vheissu in a sentence.”
So now I’m annoyed, looking to power through this ill-defined nonsense and move on to an album with a real name, not crap like Snozzwanger or Vermicious Knid. My ears were closed, my heart hard, my resolve steely. Happily, Thrice managed to open those ears, soften that heart and… marshmallowise that resolve?
Vhiessu is an energetic post-hardcore experimental rock album released in 2005. According to definitions.net, “the album has endured the test of time and is now commonly seen as Thrice’s greatest album and one of the greatest post-hardcore albums ever made.” High praise, although anything released this century has had little opportunity to truly endure the test of time. Come back in 2041 and we’ll talk.
We start with Image of the Invisibles, which I’m selecting as my standout song. It kicks off with morse code before introducing some surprisingly light and agile drumming and a hornet buzz of a guitar. Soon the vocals enter, a punky gang-style chant with an anthemic bent and a restrained scream lurking under the surface. It climbs then falls back to a mellow core, before allowing a slow build on military drums to return us to glory. Lovely stuff.
I’d happily take a slew of songs in a similar mould, slap a six on it and be on my way, but Thrice have different ideas. While there’s a strong core that runs through Vheissu, each track introduces something extra, something offbeat, something cool. Between The End And Where We Lie starts with some ominous percussion, the slower Atlantic brings piano and, I think, a glockenspiel, and Music Box brings exactly what you’d expect.
I’d initially settled on eight for this fine work, but I’m going to downgrade it to 7/10. I did enjoy it, but it lacked a stone-cold stunner, and I can’t in good faith give an eight to an album with a gibberish name.