There’s been a lot of speculation about Thrice’s breakup in the message boards and news lately, specifically focusing on singer/writer Dustin Kensrue’s religious motivation for leaving. The Orange Country Register’s article paints the blame solely on Kensrue’s commitment to his faith, doing so in a highbrow condescending manner, taking shots at his church’s pastor. The article says something that I hold an 100% opposite opinion of:

“Yet that’s also what frustrates me, that they’ve ended now, just as their music has grown so much better. I know fans of The Illusion of Safety and The Artist in the Ambulance, the group’s formative breakthrough albums, will disagree with this thinking, but Thrice had just begun to get really interesting in recent years by steering its music into more progressive (and rewarding) Radiohead-esque realms.”

WTF? New Thrice being better than old? blasphemy! Radiohead-esque being used in the affirmative? Where are the memorable melodies, the crazy riffs, the lyrical religious intensity that channeled Kierkegaard, Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis? Minor/Major was the first Thrice release where I couldn’t really distinguish the songs from each other, they all melted together into some kind of uninspired mush.

For me, Thrice we a band that hit their artistic peak with the earlier more hardcore/metal influenced “The Illusion of Safety” and the poppier yet dignified “The Artist In The Ambulance”. Each album that followed those two was about half as good as the album that came before it, making their latest offerings a pale imposter to the raw power they once possessed. I don’t see Dustin’s leaving as a sign of death, but as rebirth. I see his new band and venture into new kinds of music as the creative jolt needed to bring his songwriting back into exciting places. His leaving reaffirms that he also sees the bleakness of the path his band has gone in recent albums.

I think it’s sort of shameful that his religion can be put on trial by professional news publications like the Orange County Register. People should be applauded for following their heart (through religion or not) over financial security, people pleasing, and fame. I always found Dustin’s take on the religion in his lyrics to be thoughtful and well verses in philosophy, politics, and history. He was one of the few “punk” singers to regularly invoke philosophers, and he represented an unusual angle for lyrics in this genre. I guess I’m saying that the Christianity of his lyrics actually enhanced them, which is odd given that I am a staunch worshipper of Odin.

I think what I liked about his approach to his religion in lyrics, is that it was often conflicted and confrontational with itself, for example:

“Faith, is not something that I grasp
it’s something that I fake,
as I’m slipping, as I’m falling through the cracks,
Faith, without actions is a mask,
for making the same mistakes
as I’m slipping as I’m falling through the cracks.”

– Betrayal is a Symptom

This doesn’t sound like the bigoted ranting of a television preacher, but more like a passage from “Fear and Trembling”. I think his writing could really challenge a lot of people, and much of it gets lost on the hardcore audience who is so far from his views that they misinterpret them as critique. So let’s keep our fingers crossed on Kensrue’s new project (and the other members of Thrice, for that matter), and refrain from crying about the end of a band that was already dead years ago.