Graceful ain’t a word oft attached to Louisiana sludge lords Thou.
Speed and recklessness don’t always translate the true core of anger. Sure, the fury of “Dyer’s Eve” or any number of Grindcore thrashings are mad as heck thanks to the bump in speed. But if you want to focus that rage, you need a bit more Inigo Montoya. Make anger a mantra, slowly building and repeating until it consumes your being. Wear it like a second skin, be graceful in it.
Graceful ain’t a word oft attached to Louisiana sludge lords Thou. Anger, on the other hand, is embedded in the DNA of their music. After all, they’ve made such cheery records as War Is the Force That Gives Us Meaning, Degradation of Human Life and You, Whom I Have Always Hated. See, they’re even grammatically correct in their wrath; that takes dedication. And they’ve got dedication in mind-numbing supply. So far, 2018 has been busy. Rhea Sylvia is the third and final EP they’ll release before full length Magus comes out later this year.
And Rhea might represent the band at its creative, furious peak. Thou’s early work could be described as the Melvins on Quaaludes (and with gravel shoved down King Buzzo’s gullet). That’s certainly still on display, but with a tad more restraint. “Restless River” pods as heavily as any Bell Witch or Windhand song, but gets its thumping done in under five minutes, even while morphing between keys and allowing for a pulverizing build up at the half-way point. The slower tempos even reach a sort of stoic resolve. Closer “Lasting Dose” is nearly a lighters-in-the-air ballad, though Bryan Funck’s throat-full-of-blood vocals probably won’t be rocking arenas.
But Thou have always been on the experimental side of sludge, working closely with fellow visionaries/madmen The Body. Those nihilists’ influence comes on strong with opener “The Only Law” which begins with a low drone of chanting voices and an abyssal howl of guitar feedback. Thou are just focusing their power for those few seconds; soon it bursts into a pounding groove with Funck shredding every muscle he has. More surprising are the sections, and full on songs, of prettiness. Well, prettiness coated in grime but still. “Unfortunate Times” has a long intro of swirling, clean guitar work which pops up again. “Non-Entity” even has Funck growls about “self- flagellation.” Best, and most shocking of all, is straight-up power ballad “Deepest Sun.” Look, Baroness went from crusty metal shouters to stadium fillers and it made sense. But fuckin’ Thou making a song that Maiden would be proud of? What time line did we step into?
Thou’s first release might have been called Call No Man Happy Until He Is Dead, but they show remarkable pulses of life and beauty here. Between the EP trio and the promise shown on Mangus, Thou might wrap up 2018 as the year’s premier metal band. They have become monks, acolytes to the cause of music and rage. So, kneel down, get mad and let the evil flow through you.