Review Summary: I still haven't had my full fill.
Seven years ago, I played drums in a stoner rock band, and every Friday we’d practice in my friend’s garage for a couple hours, smoke weed in his car, then jam out mindlessly until the neighbors complained. Often times, I’d catch the guitarist playing a Nirvana riff, like “Aneurysm” or “Territorial Pissings,” and suddenly we’re winging the whole thing, and we’re playing it loud and angry. To our surprise, it actually sounds pretty good. That’s when we heard a knock at the garage door. It’s a talent agent for Warner Bros. and he says he likes what he hears. We ended up signing a three-album deal the next day, and life has never been the same since.
Obviously, that last part didn’t happen. The point is, Nirvana covers are fun, but you’re not going to turn any heads with them. That is, unless you’re Louisiana sludge outfit Thou
. On Blessings of the Highest Order
, Thou put their spin on 16 tracks by the legendary Seattle grunge act, and they do so with vicious virtuosity. Guitars and bass are tuned lower, the feedback made noisier, and the drums, by some miracle, even heavier. The major change above all, and the one that will discourage many listeners, are the raspy shrieks of vocalist Bryan Funck. Whereas Kurt was able to craft melody from ear-piercing screams, e.g. the chorus of “Scentless Apprentice,” Funck’s screams are atonal, more guttural, and never let up when he’s behind the microphone. That being said, if you don’t like the first two minutes of “Aneurysm” (or “Blew” depending on what version you’re listening to), you’re not gonna enjoy the next 68 minutes of this massive tribute. If you’re like me though, you’re already eyes-closed, headbanging to the filthy, familiar groove.
Thou have long revealed themselves to be Nirvana worshippers. With most of these tracks having been featured on previous releases, and their 2015 cover set, blonde wig included, being a dead giveaway, it feels like Blessings
has been a compilation itching to be released. Now that it’s here, a layer of Thou’s history has been peeled back, and we can peak inside to see the songs that inspired their disgustingly heavy sludge. For the most part, we are treated to obscure song choices like “Endless Nameless,” a seven minute slab of feedback-heavy sludge with brooding atmosphere that often descends into pure noise, and “Even in His Youth,” a power chord-driven b-side with repetitive, depressing lyrics. Alongside these outsider cuts, Thou show their admiration for classics like “In Bloom” where the screams are traded in for dreamy female vox while the guitars provide a dense wall of fuzz behind them. This one is worth checking out if you’re adverse to the evil-sounding shrieks found elsewhere.
While every cover is excellent in its own way, “My Girl” is where Thou truly shines. Based on Nirvana’s version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” from MTV Unplugged
, it begins with a monstrous bassline before the drums and throaty vocals kick in. Around the three-minute mark, the band breaks into a haunting passage with harmonizing guitars that will surely give you goosebumps. At the end of this nine-minute behemoth, the vocals break up the song as Funck screams “I will shiver the whole night through” with a painful-sounding conviction similar to Kurt’s unplugged performance. The band jumps back in for a thunderous conclusion, capping off a truly mammoth record.
If you love Nirvana, chances are you’ll at least get a kick out of what’s to offer on Blessings of the Highest Order
. If you also love sludge, it’s likely you’ll enjoy this as thoroughly as I do. Aside from those I mentioned, my top picks on this are “Milk It,” “Floyd the Barber,” “Stain,” and “School.” As of now, this is free to download, so there’s little in the way of giving this a spin.