Thou claim greater influence from 90s proto-grunge groups like Alice In Chains and Soundgarden than contemporaries like EYEHATEGOD, a band to whom the Baton Rouge outfit are frequently compared. Magus - Thou’s first LP since 2014’s Heathen - lands squarely between the two camps, but is also much more than that. Sludgy, abrasive and loud as heck, there's more than a little Converge in here. That is to say that Magus is modern metal par excellence. The vocalist’s screech is the first sound you hear in hell. Out via Sacred Bones.
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After the release of 2014’s immense ‘Heathen’, Thou hibernated long and deep, slumbering in Louisiana’s Baton Rouge for what seemed like an eternity. It’s now hard to remember that ever happening. We’re about to ship out their new record ‘Magus’ and we’ve already been treated to three EPs, each a cobweb-dusting genre exercise: ‘The House Primordial’, with its sludgy riposte; ‘Inconsolable’, a desolate slowcore record; and ‘Rhea Sylvia’, in which they honoured Alice in Chains and the broader church of their beloved grunge rock. You’d ordinarily get sick of hearing a new record from your favourite band every month; Thou’s approach was to present material that made us forget how they sounded. Just before it was time to remember.
‘Magus’, their first proper LP since ‘Heathen’, is a stunning reminder of everything this band really is. Making the label switch from Gilead to Sacred Bones does absolutely nothing to tether this band: they are still ferocious, still verbose, still unapologetic. Their riffs are still both stubbornly languishing and immensely catchy. The theme we all seem to be running with is that Thou are as much a grunge band as they are kings of funeral march metal; it’s true, in the sense that you get stuck in these songs, the mud wrapping around your ankles on songs like “Transcending Dualities”, where the low end manifests as muk. Between Bryan Funck’s feral vocals and the blemished guitar chug of Andy Gibbs and Matthew Thudium, this band sound like Moloch and Melvins, rolled into one: rockers on a permanent hell sabbatical.
Forget how heavy it sounds, for a second, or how good the riffs are: it’s also just their best made record. On ‘Heathen’, Thou’s pastoral interludes served as a kind of decoration, offering an ornate medieval garden grounds for the songs to live in. After making three records of different textures and timbres, ‘Magus’ feels like a complete package, its distantly recorded blastbeat interludes and beatless drone metal guitar bringing together the record -- and bringing about its climaxes, too. These are some of their harshest songs, but their direction feels clear, their melodies like a crack of light, Thou's ability to arrange and strip away parts creating a kind of doom rock cinema. “The Changeling Prince” is pretty much the best thing they’ve ever written; its video once again points to the juxtaposition of barroom grunge and high-fantasy metal, a feeling of lower-key humanity filtering down through the constant swathes of feedbacking evil.
If one Thou record has to go down as a genre classic, it should be this one: it is agonising and euphoric, their favourite contrasts combined to perfection.
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