Thou
Umbilical


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
June 2nd, 2024 | 72 replies


Release Date: 05/31/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Thou art pissed

It’s a difficult thing to choose a band name which fully encompasses an artist’s chosen sound and vision, especially when said band name is only a single word. But I’d argue that “Thou” does just that. A short, monosyllabic, archaic word conveys so much in this case - perhaps its association as the authoritative beginning of those biblical commandments gives credence to the unforgiving atmospheres Thou regularly provides us - their songs’ feeling of ancient impregnability and their wrathful Old Testament energy.

Band names aside, this Louisiana crew is now at the stage of their career in which they are simply building upon an already prodigious legacy. Leaving aside their sprawling set of EPs, compilations, and collaborations, the group’s LPs over the last nearly two decades represent one of the finest bodies of work in all of metal, not just their chosen field (or better yet, mire) of sludge. Whether it’s the more straightforward heaviness of early albums like 2007’s Tyrant or the sprawling, somewhat more restrained (if no less hellish) later output like 2014’s Heathen, Thou’s previous five full-lengths have never been less than excellent.

Well, make that six. Coming six years after the band’s last record bearing only their name (2018’s Magus), Umbilical unleashes a different side of the band’s signature blend of bone-crunching riffs and ear-splitting screeching, but it’s characteristically well-crafted and certain to satisfy music fans previously seduced by Thou’s grim and imposing style.

What’s so different this time around? The simple answer is that Thou have retreated back towards their less complex youthful style, reducing the winding nature of many of their compositions in favor of a sole focus on heaviness, early and often. But, in reality Umbilical doesn’t particularly resemble the band’s 2000s’ full-lengths that much either. Instead, these ten songs tend to be shorter than usual, leaning upon the hardcore/punk influences which informed the original sludge style, and finally and most importantly, much of this material feels similar in spirit to recent efforts by the likes of Primitive Man and Mastiff - acts which share some nihilistic sludge DNA with Thou, sure, but I’d previously found Thou’s musical interpretation far more “delicate”, for lack of a better term. Here, the band simply lets loose and the resulting heaviness is (often) harder, better, faster, stronger (with credit to the once great Kanye West). Some listeners may quibble with one or more of the adjectives used in the last sentence, but the key takeaway is that Thou’s vicious anger is completely untrammeled here.

With that in mind, where a listener feels Umbilical ranks within this lauded discography, and even how they assess the strongest songs on this record, will come down heavily upon their sonic preferences. For myself, as much as I can appreciate the balls-to-the-wall energy of the rippers which populate this tracklist (tunes like “I Feel Nothing When You Cry” and “The Promise” cannot be denied), I feel most drawn to some of the tracks which feel closer to Thou’s previous doomier work - like opener “Narcissist’s Prayer”, the lumbering “I Return Chained and Bound to You”, and the satisfying, riffy, closer “Siege Perilous”. And, it’s notable that a moment like the vaguely triumphant melody which ends the otherwise absolutely pummeling “House of Ideas” is one of the most memorable things on the album, emphasizing the importance of brief instants of respite amid the otherwise near-complete forty-nine minute festival of neutron star heaviness, with little hint of calm, let alone joy. But, even if the overall direction isn’t quite my cup of tea, given its overwhelming nature, there’s also no denying few have done it better. The headline takeaway is that Thou art pissed, yea, even more pissed than normal, but they’ve channeled that rage into some excellent music, as usual.



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user ratings (140)
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Vasilis S. CONTRIBUTOR (4.5)
Renouncement of sentimental frailty....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2024


5980 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thou killed it again - even if by personal preference this is probably one of my least favorite of their LPs

bighubbabuddha
June 2nd 2024


753 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

it's back-to-basics with a rawer, more direct feel. Just what I needed. Good review.

Motiv3
June 2nd 2024


9168 Comments


Great review, this album for me is one of my least favourites from them just sitting ahead of Peasant but it's still awesome.

Demon of the Fall
June 2nd 2024


34386 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

defo looking forward to checking this out in the coming week(s)

two reviews already but nothing for Beth Gibbons (2 weeks later) is terrible for site optics tho, especially in the face of metal-centric tendencies and everyone being all over unnamed genetic *insert heavy band* (you can guess).



Idk where else to vent about this, so yeah it’s here

Hawks
June 3rd 2024


89540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Damn another amazing review for this beast of an album. M///

Hawks
June 3rd 2024


89540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

And Demon I just reviewed Beth Gibbons. ;]

evilford
June 3rd 2024


64758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, love these guys

evilford
June 3rd 2024


64758 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Unnamed genetic heavy band...? I guess I'm failing to pick up what demon is putting down

FowlKrietzsche
June 3rd 2024


1187 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think he's talking about BMTH

Jurtz
June 4th 2024


1928 Comments


How do you guys like the production on this?

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 4th 2024


5980 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks folks! m/



@Demon, I too regret the lack of a Beth Gibbons review on the site (happy that Hawks stepped up there), but as far as staff goes, we don't get paid and write when the muse calls us, and right now some of our most prolific writers are less present due to real life obligations. Sometimes an album gets missed, it is what it is.

zakalwe
June 4th 2024


39193 Comments


Now we are talking.

Dirty, loud and a right old handful.

Confessed2005
June 4th 2024


5647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

After a few listens, I have to say this output is one of their best.

Christbait
June 5th 2024


378 Comments


Glad to see Primitive Man mentioned in the review. Because this is exactly what this reminds me of. Except it plays at more than 5bpm and has decipherable riffs.

OldMystic
June 5th 2024


18 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I really like it. I just wish there were a few more vocals from KC on it, like with the Emma Ruth Rundle collaboration.

Faraudo
June 5th 2024


4680 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Genuinely one of the best heavy bands of the 21st century

Orb
June 5th 2024


9420 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Agreeed

FowlKrietzsche
June 5th 2024


1187 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Can't believe we have to put up with the inferior album cover on here smh

Jurtz
June 5th 2024


1928 Comments


Agreeed [2]

Jurtz
June 5th 2024


1928 Comments


I feel like being fucking chained to the bottom of the ocean



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