Thou is a sludge/doom metal band from Baton Rouge. The group is known for their brutal sound, apocalyptic imagery, and prolific work ethic, Magus being their fourth release this year, though it’s their first proper, full length album since 2014. Thou pulls from a lot of grunge influences as well, making their heavy, slogging sound far more accessible for fans, like myself, who lack an in depth knowledge of metal and all of it’s facets.
Magus follows directly after the fantastic Rhea Sylvia EP, which came out in July of this year, and which I and many other critics praised for the unique mix of styles and genres it presented without losing the band’s unique tone. It toed perfectly the line which separates the melodic and listenable from the heavy and atmospheric and thanks to Bryan Funck’s horrifying vocals and epic lyrics, the EP was something quite special. This left me excited, and ultimately impressed a second time by this much larger effort.
The first and most noticeable change from the aforementioned EP is the ambitious 75 minute run time. The band isn’t quite that accessible, and so Magus does end up feeling like a bit of a slog, but it’s well worth the effort, and the pacing isn’t too bad. Short, interluding tracks like “My Brother Caliban,” and excellent “Divine Will,” break up the monotony quite well, and none of the songs ever feel like they’re meandering.
Andy Gibbs and Mathew Thudium’s guitars, for example, never fails to entertain, and it’s probably this album’s best quality. On tracks like “Sovereign Self,” and “The Changeling Prince,” the latter of which is my personal favorite on the album, he drives the song along, not only with crunching, distorted rhythms, but with screaming dissonance that breaks through the thick instrumental fog and leads that have excellent velocity.
The grunge influences are certainly less apparent on this project, though it does rear it’s head quite loudly on tracks like the opener, “Inward” or “Transcending Dualities,” especially in the Tyler Coburn’s drums, which forgo the fill-heavy style generally associated with metal in favor of slower, more intentional snare shots and cymbal crashes.
This, in general, may be the band’s best selling point: there is no waste on these albums. Even on long pieces like the epic “In the Kingdom of Meaning,” every strum, snare shot, or scream is there for a reason and there’s no noise for the sake of noise and everything matters.
Mitch Wells’ bass-lines are relatively uneventful, aside from a shining moment on the intro to “Greater Invocation of Disgust.” Aside from this and a few other instances, much of the bass work seems to blend in to the rhythm guitar and it rarely ventures out on it’s own.
Last but not least, Bryan Funck gives yet another powerful performance on lead vocals. His opening screams on “Elimination Rhetoric,” are haunting, and he carries the eleven minute closer, “Supremacy,” with ease. His voice is shrill and demonic, yet it commands attention, even over the clamoring instrumentals behind him. He plays the role of energizing the long, etherial dirges that populate much of the tracklist, while also granting a sharp edge to a few of the shorter, more accessible moments.
I enjoyed Magus quite a bit, though I’m not left without my complaints. The production is fairly weak. The guitars are very flat, the drums lack depth, and a few of the tracks are simply overwhelmed by the noise, thanks in part to the non-existent bass guitar. In addition, only one of the three interlude tracks is any good. “My Brother Caliban,” features annoying, trap style drums and a synth line that sounds like the background to a Halloween “spooky tunes,” mix cd, and “The Law Which Compels,” is nothing but a droning bass not for nearly three minutes. The latter of these is more forgivable, as one could imagine this being a good lead into the epic conclusion, but it’s just entirely too long, and does nothing to justify it’s runtime.
The complaints, however, certainly don’t ruin this album for me as Magus is easily one of my favorite heavy projects of the year, though it doesn’t quite match Rhea Sylvia’s consistency and energy. What it lacks in those departments, however, it returns in scope and atmosphere.
Thou is one of the hardest working groups in metal today, and Magus is yet another fantastic entry into their catalog.
HEAR MAGUS: https://open.spotify.com/album/2KQjqzq9VUEjIXaSZq2Xoi