It’s always great when a band you consider a favorite of a certain genre returns with a fucking banger. It’s even greater when it’s 4 bangers over the course of a few months. I thought about it for a bit and I’ve decided, fuck it! Why not just compile each of these releases in one post and knock it out that way? Works for me! So, after my review of Thou’s latest full-length masterpiece, scroll down and get my quick thoughts on the 3 EPs that accompanied it this year as well! I guess you can call it a bonus, but fuck me, I had to include them. All 4 of these releases encompass Thou as the absolute best and most creative I’ve hear them yet! So, i’d be remiss if I didn’t cover them all.
So, like I said, Thou have been a favorite of mine for a good number of years now, when it comes to Sludge. I’ve always regarded them as one of, if not the meanest, foulest and most crushing band within the genre. Hailing from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, they started out as a nasty, filthy and grime-drenched Sludge Doom act, akin to the likes of Eyehategod and Crowbar, but later evolved into something of their own, as they gradually added more and more intricate elements to their sound and collaborated with fellow Sludge/Drone act, The Body on a couple of occasions… and also did a bunch of Nirvana covers. Lots of them, all fucking excellent! All the way up to their last ripper of an album, Heathen, they’ve carved quite a path for themselves and reached a pretty significant status in the underground. After a 4-year wait, upon hearing of their return, I was excited and curious to see what they had up their sleeve this time around. I knew I could trust them in putting out something great, and I was once again right, but I wan’t ready for what I actually got. Good lord.
Magus is an album that further solidifies Thou’s stance as my top Sludge act, not only for it’s sonic delivery, but the band’s stylistic progression. It still maintains it’s core essence of thick, crushing Sludgy Doom, but implements a multitude of different elements within it’s sound and adds layers to it that give it a whole new dimension of dynamic to it. This album is basically a mix of Sludge, Doom, Post-Metal, Black Metal, some Shoegaze, Ambient and whatever else that I missed. It’s a very outside-the-box blend of sounds, but they pull it off splendidly! The 3 EPs that accompanied this album are all different in style; each one representing one of the elements present on this album. The album is basically a culminating of that. The length of the album (clocking in at an hour and 15 minutes) is probably the only real gripe I have with it. Like I’ve said on here in the past, no matter how good an album is, if it’s too long, it’ll get tiring and overstay it’s welcome. I tried to avoid that best I could by not listening to this one in one long sitting, but good lord, it was just too good to pause. But I did and I paced my listen, so it remained enjoyable all the way through.
Now on to the music. From the beginning, as Inward kicks in and starts things off, I was immediately taken back by the pounding delivery of the drums and chords, coupled with the slow, Post-ish riffs that flow over it. Bryan Funck’s vocals have become more shrieky and manic as well. It’s an excellent, 10-minute opener that keeps itself interesting throughout it’s running time with those vibrant riffs and it’s slow, crushing fury; just pure Doom at it’s finest. Following that long epic, we get a short, somewhat prelude in My Brother Caliban, which is a minute long barrage of distorted blast-beats with muffled shrieks and early 90s Black Metal-style power chords, which leaks right into the intro of the very Stoner-esque Transcending Dualities. Another heavy, Doomy smasher, with a Stoner Doom-like cadence to it that reminds me of some of the works of Bongzilla or Church of Misery. A lot of great riffs in it too! The Changeling Prince is one of the shorter ones, but also a fucking ripper of a track; just as heavy and riff-fuled as it’s predecessors.
We then get another lengthy one in Sovereign Self, which opens with a passage of soft, picked melodies, coupled with somber clean vocals, via Emily McWilliams, then dives right back into the slow, crushing Doom that dominates the album’s sound. This is where the length of the album starts coming into play and taking it’s toll attention-wise. Again, as long as you pace your listen, you’ll be fine. Then comes another prelude in the Shoegazy Divine Will, where Mcwilliams lends her voice again over a patterned, ritualistic drum beat. In the Kingdom of Meaning follows that one with another Post-Rock-like intro of slow, dreary picking, that leads right into another array of smashing drums, chunky guitars and manic shrieks. This one gave me some Black Boned Angel vibes for some reason; not a bad thing! Invocation of Disgust follows and reminds me of early Yob and Grief, with it’s super Sludgy and Drone-esque delivery; another shorter track, but real good one!
The same description applies for Elmination Rhetoric. Very Sludgy and Drony with an intensely angry delivery. Another track that stays below the 10 minute mark and keeps it’s message short and sweet; the dreary, Shoegazy riffs shine through again on this track. We get one more prelude with The Law Which Compels, where a slight hint of Noise is implemented and the ritualistic drum patterns under cavernous shrieks return, then leads right into the soul-shatteringly epic closer, Supremacy. This track serves as the grand finale to the entire 3 EP and LP package deal, where each element used is accentuated one last time as sort of an aural clashing or eruption. The crushing Doom, dreary Post-Metal, Shoegaze, Ambiance, etc all comes to light one last time in the form of this monstrous 10-minute composition. Very emotional and exhilarating closer that winds things down in the most dramatic and hypnotic way possible. Fucking brilliant stuff!
When a review turns out to be this long, you know it was a fucking winner. It means that I had enough to say about it and I feel like my time isn’t being wasted in talking about it, nor was it wasted listening to it. This is a fucking masterpiece, not only a Sludge masterpiece or a Doom masterpiece, but an Extreme Metal masterpiece. I don’t mean to sound too dramatic, but it’s the 100% truth. I can’t shower this album with enough praise, and considering all that these guys have given us this year alone, I can’t praise them enough either. So, needless to say, this album is recommended to anyone and everyone who’s into Sludge, Doom Metal or anything else. It’s more than worth at least a try. One of the undisputed best acts in the entire genres of Sludge and Doom Metal have proven that they are so yet again. This is no Hipster trash, just pure, passionate and damn near perfect slow, aural mastery.
Now, on to the EPs.
So, as we all know, over the last few months, we also got 3 solid EPs in conjunction with Magus, that explore the different elements and styles that we hear mixed in with each other on the album. Each style is presented individually on each EP and it’s all done just as well as it is on said album. This review is long enough and was enough of a pain in the ass to write, so let’s just get right into them. I don’t want to make this too much of a fucking manifesto for you to read through.
My quick thoughts on all 3 EPs…
The House Primordial
The first of the series, released in May through Robotic Empire, The House Primordial is the first major hit of experimentation with an individual sound, that would later culminate on Magus. This EP follows the normal Thou style, but in a much more noisy and drony way than usual. I’d much sooner describe this as Industrial Drone than I would Sludge. It’s super slow, drawn out, dissonant and spiteful in delivery; reminds me of Khanate and The Body in a way, which makes sense, considering they collaborated with The Body multiple times. It’s very ugly, very nasty and very interesting all around and further showcases the band’s ability to switch hats at the drop of a dime. This is harsh, hateful Drone at it’s (un)finest and only a prelude to what was to come. Great stuff!
Next, also released in May, independently this time and probably the biggest shocker of the bunch, Inconsolable is another drastic hat-switch in style, this time in the direction of a Grungy Post-Rock sound. Yes, you read that right. This isn’t all THAT surprising, knowing the affinity the band seems to have for Nirvana, but it’s still very weird, but pretty awesome to hear them take things in a completely new direction and showcase what they’re really capable of. The instruments on this are absolutely beautiful-sounding and ring precious melodies all throughout this 8-track batch. Emily McWilliams returns here as well, lending her eerily angelic voice on The Hammer and Into the Scourge Pit. This is just an incredibly haunting hybrid of Post-Rock and Grunge that brings acts like Emma Ruth Rundle and Glaare to mind. It’s so well put together and beautifully crafted, I can’t do it enough justice in one paragraph, so give it a listen for yourself! Out of all these EPs, this is the one I’d recommend the most. Just dreary, haunting and vibrant aural mastery from front to back!
Finally, via Deathwish Inc., comes Rhea Sylvia; the final piece of the puzzle that would result in the incredible album I just reviewed. This EP brings things back to the core Thou style, but again, in a very different fashion. For this, the Sludgy, Doomy heaviness is back, but a heavy element of dreary clean vocals and more Post-ish riffs and melodies are implemented into the sound and blended into the heaviness. Definitely sounds like something that bands on the more melodic side of Sludge, like Oathbreaker (pre-Rheia), The Lion’s Daughter or even the almighty Acid Bath would do. Both super heavy and hauntingly melodic, this is another masterfully crafted contrast of styles that are carefully blended and utilized to the full potential of those who hold the instruments. Great stuff and another example of how sonically versatile this band has become. I don’t always gravitate towards melodic stuff, but this is a top exception for sure.
That’s all, fucks. So, needless to say, the mighty Thou have worked their Louisianan asses off this year and gave us a shit ton of material to consume. This band deserves all of the support they can muster. They’ve really grown as a band and as artists and I can only hope that they continue to get better from here. They haven’t let me down yet and I feel like it’ll be a while before they do. So, one last time, well done, Thou! Your hard work will not go unspoken. Well fucking done!