Both Pelican and Thrice are stretching the boundaries of their sounds and others' expectations. Pelican's City of Echoes soft-pedals their usual throb, taking their complex art-metal instrumentals in a melodic direction. The tracks are still dense but don't unwind as far, getting through each thematic movement with heretofore unseen concision. The interplay of guitarists Laurent Schroeder-Lebec and Trevor de Brauw reaches another level, as they move closer to the prickly churn of bands like June of '44 or Rodan (they are from Chicago, after all), leaving behind dark stoner-gloom for something more supple and subtle. Thrice rode the crest of emo's second wave, scoring a deal with Island for their third album, The Artist in the Ambulance, which achieved the apotheosis of the post-core bluster, tightened and polished to a dull sheen. There was nowhere for Thrice to go but the ambitious, meticulously layered, stylistic schizophrenia of 2005's Vheissu. Aggressive, beautiful and overwrought, Vheissu begat their latest project, Alchemy Index, Vols. I-IV, which explores their different sonic elements on four album sides, each featuring a distinct aspect of their sound.

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