The Artist in the Ambulance

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The Artist in the Ambulance
Thrice - The Artist in the Ambulance cover.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 22, 2003
RecordedMarch–April 2003
  • Salad Days Studios, Beltsville, Maryland
  • Bearsville Studios, Bearsville, New York
  • Phase Studios, College Park, Maryland
ProducerBrian McTernan
Thrice chronology
The Illusion of Safety
The Artist in the Ambulance
If We Could Only See Us Now
Singles from The Artist in the Ambulance
  1. "All That's Left"
    Released: June 17, 2003
  2. "Under a Killing Moon"
    Released: July 1, 2003
  3. "Stare at the Sun"
    Released: November 18, 2003

The Artist in the Ambulance is the third studio album by American rock band Thrice. It was released on July 22, 2003, through Island Records, marking their first release on a major label. The album spawned two charting singles, "All That's Left" and "Stare at the Sun", both of which charted on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. It is now seen as an important release for the band, and one of the most enduring albums of the 2000s post-hardcore movement.[1]


In June 2000, Thrice released their debut album Identity Crisis through independent label Greenflag Records.[2] Sometime afterwards, Louis Posen of Sub City Records took interest in the group and re-issued the album. The group's second album, the Brian McTernan-produced The Illusion of Safety, followed in February 2002.[3] The band then went on Plea for Peace tour across the US,[3] before touring the west coast and playing across North America on a seven-week tour.[4] Soon afterwards, the band began headlining shows, drawing attention from major labels[5] in April.[6]

Around this time, the group were being courted by music mogul Rick Rubin.[7] In June, the group signed to major label Island Records,[5] and announced the signing the following month.[8] The signing came about after some people from the label went to one of their shows.[9] Vocalist/guitarist Dustin Kensrue said they "felt it was the right move" for the group and would allow them to "make better music and be on the road more."[10] Also in July, the group spent time at home writing material for their next album.[8] The group then appeared on the main stage at Warped Tour,[9] before playing club shows in October and November.[8]

Recording and composition[edit]

In March and April 2003, the group were recording[11][7] at Salad Days Studios in Beltsville, Maryland. McTernan returned to produce and engineered the sessions. Kensrue had a few disagreements with McTernan over lyrics. Kensrue was feeling "really maxed out" while in the studio as he wrote most of the lyrics there.[12] Having no time to rest, whenever he came up with a lyric that McTernan "would know that it wasn't the best I could do, and he would tell me."[12] Guitarist Teppei Teranishi said they spent more time on structuring their songs as they used to "just throw songs together" previously.[10] Drums were recorded at Bearsville Studios in Bearsville, New York with engineer Michael Barbiero and Pro Tools operator Matt Squire. Bill Synan assisted the pair.[13]

The strings on "Cold Cash and Colder Hearts" and "The Melting Point of Wax" were recorded at Phase Studios in College Park, Maryland. Charlie Barnett arranged and conducted the session, which consisted of Marcio Bothello (cello), Osman Kivrak (viola), Teri Lazar (violin), Chris Shieh (violin) and Greg Watkins (double bass). Andy Wallace mixed the recordings at Soundtrack studios in New York City with assistance from Steve Sisco and Pro Tools operator Josh Wilbur. Howie Weinberg mastered the recordings at Masterdisck in New York City.[14] Two extra songs, "Motion Isn't Meaning" and "Eclipse", were recorded during the sessions, but left off the finished album.[13]

Musically, the album has been classified as melodic hardcore[15][16] and post-hardcore.[17] Jon Wiederhorn of MTV said the album mixed together thrash metal, hardcore punk, emo and pop punk, "often within a single song."[18] Kesnrue said "All That's Left" talks about the "strength we have in our youth and the things we trade for that".[18] According to Kensrue, "The Melting Pot of Wax" was a response to people "bitching at us for decisions" they made in the previous year.[19]


In April and May 2003, the group went on tour with the Used. During this tour, the group performed new material.[11] On May 22, The Artist in the Ambulance was announced for released in July.[20] In May and June, the group participated in the Deconstruction Tour, which visited various European countries.[21] "All That's Left" was released to alternative radio on June 17.[22] Between late June and early August, the group appeared on the Warped Tour.[23] "Under a Killing Moon" was released on a split 7" vinyl single with "For the Workforce, Drowning" by Thursday on July 1.[24] A music video for "All That's Left", directed by the Workshop, premiered through MTV on July 8.[25] Initially planned for release on July 15,[11] The Artist in the Ambulance was released through Island Records on July 22.[26] The album's title was inspired the book Burn Collector by Al Burian. Kensrue said: "It's basically asking the question, 'Do we, as artists, have the responsibility to do something more than ... entertain?'"[18] A limited edition version of the album was also released featuring special artwork, lyrics and details about each track.[27] Five percent of the sales[10] from Artist were donated to a charitable cause, which was Syrentha J. Savio Endowment. The organization provides chemotherapy and other medication for those who cannot afford it. The charity was founded by Mark Beemer, a friend of the band whose wife passed away from breast cancer.[28]

Drummer Riley Breckenridge stated that: "It feels really good to be involved with someone who is so dedicated in making a difference in people's lives."[28] Around the release, the group signed in-store signings.[25] In August, the group performed at the Reading and Leeds Festivals in the UK, before embarking on a European tour supporting Rancid and Alkaline Trio.[18] In October and November, the group went on a tour of North America with Thursday and Coheed and Cambria.[29] Two weeks of this tour was headlined by the Deftones.[18] "Stare at the Sun" was released to alternative radio on November 18.[22] The song's music video was directed by Brett Simon. The video features use of a photocopy machine, which Simon says is done to "illustrate a search for meaning and knowledge."[30] In February 2004, the group went on an Australian tour with Hot Water Music. Following this, the group toured Europe with Vaux.[13] In May and June, the group supported Dashboard Confessional on the Honda Civic Tour.[31] The group then appeared on Warped Tour for a third time.[4]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[17]
CMJ New Music ReportFavorable[33]
Cross Rhythms9/10 stars[34]
IGN9/10 [16]
Melodic3.5/5 stars [36]
Rolling Stone2/5 stars[38]

The Artist in the Ambulance received positive critical reviews. NME listed the album as one of "20 Emo Albums That Have Resolutely Stood The Test Of Time".[1]

Prior to release, 100k copies had been shipped to stores.[25] The album peaked at #16 on the Billboard 200 charts, the band's first charting album.[40] "All That's Left" peaked at number 24, becoming the band's highest-charting single until "Black Honey" in 2016.[41] "Stare at the Sun" peaked at number 39.[41]

Track listing[edit]

All music by Thrice. Lyrics by Dustin Kensrue.[14]

1."Cold Cash and Colder Hearts"2:52
2."Under a Killing Moon"2:41
3."All That's Left"3:20
5."Stare at the Sun"3:23
6."Paper Tigers"3:59
7."Hoods on Peregrine"3:31
8."The Melting Point of Wax"3:29
9."Blood Clots and Black Holes"2:49
10."The Artist in the Ambulance"3:39
11."The Abolition of Man"2:46
12."Don't Tell and We Won't Ask"3:59


Personnel per booklet.[14]