Review Summary: Thou at their most fetid.
Thou have, throughout their career, cemented their position as one of the most forward-thinking, interesting bands within the sludge sphere this side of the millennium. As far back as their first LP Tyrant
, they’ve shown themselves to be unafraid of implementing elements atypical of sludge – primarily, post-rock and slide blues – and to do so with almost enviable aplomb. Oakland
, however, draws attention to an era where their penchant for compositional niceties reached its nadir. Largely eschewing the melodies and sparser feel of Tyrant
, Thou’s 2008-2010 was a time of wrist-thick riffs, scuzzy guitars (naturally, screaming with feedback), a whole lot of bile and really, not a huge amount else. Glorious.
Opening with the two-track EP Malfeasance/Retribution
’s tone quite nicely. Bryan Funck sounds as though he gargled battery acid beforehand, the idiosyncratic conjunction of his politicised, nigh-on poetic lyrics and rotten delivery sounding particularly unpleasant against the EP’s imposing wall of bass. Malfeasance/Retribution
is a 16-minute war machine of riff after bludgeoning riff, its only reprieve coming from a single minute in (the spectacularly titled) ‘The Genitals of Every Rapist Hang Bleeding from These Trees’; not a pleasant one either, taking the form of a plodding bass line laced with bombing cries, like diving Stuka. Their contribution to We Pass Like Light, From Land to Land
(a split with Salem, OR’s Leech) proffers some aural respite, particularly bookends ‘Unmasked’ (a bleak acoustic number) and the haunting ‘The Defeatist’s Lament’; ‘Here I Stand, Head in Hand’ threatens to as well, but between its bizarre watery swells lies some staggeringly impassioned shrieks and one of the compilation’s most enduring riffs. ‘Smoke Pigs’ and ‘Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos’ (from splits with Black September and Haarp respectively) contrast Thou at their most energetic and doom-laden, and while the unflinching hum of ‘Baton Rouge, Louisiana’ is an odd choice from Baton Rouge, You Have Much to Answer For
, its total lack of melody is perhaps fitting to close a vignette of what is arguably Thou’s filthiest hour.
’s content is a little more homogeneous than their other releases, granted, but the almost never-ending barrage of riffs, Funck’s vitriolic rasps and muddy guitar tones make the compilation Thou’s most out-and-out fun material to listen to. It triggers that part of the brain that likes hitting things with hammers. The part of your brain that involuntarily contorts into a grimace when you hear something almost ridiculously heavily. Basically, it’s about that riff at 5:20 in ‘Their Hooves Carve Craters in The Earth’. Go out. Listen to this. Headbang in public walking down the road. Heathen
will still be waiting for you when you get home.