Wednesday 7 May 2014

Thou - Heathen (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 25/2/2014
Label : Glead Media (CD)/Robotic Empire (Tape)/Vendetta (Vinyl)

HEATHEN, track listing : 
1. Free Will 14:44
2. Dawn 01:18
3. Feral Faun 09:28
4. Into the Marshlands 06:58
5. Clarity 00:46
6. At the Foot of Mount Driskill 11.21
7. In Defiance of the Sages 05:32
8. Take Off Your Skin and Dance in Your Bones 02:13
9. Immorality Dictates 10:28
10. Ode to Physical Pain 11:48

The Band :

Mitch Well | Bass
Andy Gibbs | Guitar
Matthew Fudium | Guitar
Bryan Funck | Vocals
Josh Nee | Drums

Review :

There has been a lot of buzz everywhere I seem to click about Thou, and even more so for their latest excursion, 'Heathen'. The Baton Rouge, LA troupe are tagged as anything from punk, DIY, metal, doom, you name it - but the word 'sludge' is avoided. Not sure whether they think it is a narrow term, or if their legion of followers hold no love for it. Either way I was interested to see if the hype was indeed justified and if they truly did deserve cult status.

Opener 'Free Will' threw me for a loop somewhat. I'm not sure if I was expecting HEAVY from the off, or something else entirely. What I got was quite a moody and melodic start, almost post-metallic in nature. Pointed, composed and subtle. Not at all what I thought was coming my way, and by no means what I had prepared my body for. But it builds fantastically with each brushstroke, and when you get to see the actual picture - BAM, different breed of heavy. It wasn't kicking a hole in my speakers, this is old school, biblical pain heavy. You can practically feel it sweating blood. Thick bass and soaring guitar, but it's twinned with a smooth drumming style. It comes across as being very calculated, very methodical. I can appreciate that approach to music, that's how I pretty much live my life. The vocals are demonic and soaked in suffering, which absolutely suits the style. The fat riff towards the end of the track is the equivalent of just eating the skin off chicken. It's terrible for you, you know you shouldn't do it, but it's not like you're gonna make it out alive is it? Listen to that. GLORIOUS.

'Into The Marshlands' is very much doom. That kind of mournful, low end boom that manages to depress and set your spirit free in equal measure. It's the exact same effect that a Windstein riff has upon me. Liberating, in a completely melancholic way. A lot of what has been said about Thou is that they pick their spots in terms of when to bust out the meat, and I can see that. While this cut is indeed a heavy jam, they often go off on these quieter interludes to search within their sound. Zero evidence of that exploration here though as the groove factor is turned up to 13. It's thunderous, larger than life and frankly a joy to behold.

There is an awful lot going on here to cover in a relatively short space (the album is 75 minutes long), but I will close with 'In Defiance of the Sages'. More of that concussive bass would make for a punishing listen were it not tempered with a lighter sense. The cymbals crash all over the joint, but they never overbear. It's almost like they quite clearly wanted to separate the two sides of what they bring to the table, and then attempt to sit them next to each other. They feel like they don't meld, but that's not a negative observation. In fact it's quite the opposite - they interact, and seek to temper each other like two pieces of fine steel. Am I comparing Thou to a fine sword? Maybe not, but they are well crafted.

I have to admit I came at this with a degree of scepticism, what with the never ending amount of bombardment I seem to have experienced about the band. What I found was that a lot of that hype is entirely justified, and that 'Heathen' is truly an exceptional album. They by no means reinvent the wheel, but they are most definitely in the elite of what classifies as this kind of music.

Soaked in atmosphere but with the weight to back it up, Thou are more than just fanatical words. 'Heathen' is most definitely worthy of your devotion.

Words by : Matt Fitton

You can get it CD, tape and vinyl

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