Thou is a sludge/doom metal band based out of Baton Rouge Louisiana, notable for their consistent studio output, dark aesthetic, and the brutal vocal performances of Bryan Funck. They released their first full length studio effort in 2007 entitled Tyrant, and would go on to put out 10 more releases over the following decade, including three in 2018, of which Rhea Sylvia is the shortest and most recent.
In the interest of full transparency, I’ll admit that, coming into this EP, I was completely new to Thou’s work, as well as relatively unfamiliar with sludge metal as a whole. However, upon my first listen to this record, I was simply baffled by everything I heard, and knew instantly that I had to review it. From the eerily slow tempos to the striking use of minor chords, from the clear grunge influences to Bryan Funck’s gut-wrenching scream, this EP fires on all cylinders.
The first and most obvious point of note is Funck’s vocal performance. His clean work, on “The Only Law,” for example, is monolithic, spacey, and at once feels inviting but ominous. He draws you in with this, but strikes back violently with his screams, reminiscent of some sort of goblin, gravely and furious, but with a hint of desperation. While there are many factors which make this project work, but the inspired vocal work must surely be listed chiefly among them.
The lyricism is also quite fantastic, especially on “Restless River,” or “Unfortunate Times.” Thou paints such a dreary environment in which to base their philosophical writing, which is immediately chased by this ever-present sense of dread which is formulated through Bryan’s poetic language. This writing truly adds another layer to the project as a whole.
From here, let us turn to the instrumentation, which is flooded with so many clear influences that listeners may need a few listens to get it all. The guitars, in particular, are quite similar to heavier, early grunge acts like Alice in Chains, especially in their perfect balance between distortion and melody, and the clever use of unique minor chords to color progressions like that of “Non-Entity.” The tempos, however, are that of a funeral dirge, allowing plenty of space for Tyler Coburn’s almost progressive drum work, as he does quite explosively on “Deepest Sun,” and again on the closer, “The Lasting Dose.”
This is, of course, is all brought to life by solid production. Take the nightmarish soundscape of “Unfortunate Times,” for example, and one will see the importance of producers who know how to perfectly balance each piece of the puzzle. The effects work well, adding space to the seven minute epic, and the distortion on the guitars is simply superb. Above all, however, its the appreciation for instrumentation through not allowing the vocals to overpower it, which is the most important. There are a few minor points where there seems to be a bit of unplanned dissonance between instrumentation and vocals, but for the most part, the production is spot on.
Throughout the entirety of the very manageable thirty minute runtime, Thou use their experience, talent, and insight to take listeners on a ride through one brutal world after another, writing with purpose and performing with pure rage. Their experimental brand of sludge metal is one of my favorite styles I’ve found since I began my attempt to immerse myself modern metal music, and its a style which I simply can’t wait to revisit at the end of the month for Thou’s next full length LP.
HEAR THOU: https://open.spotify.com/album/5Ac00pCJxh7f4bC8P0172p