Daughters is Back After Eight Years With the Best Metal Album of the Year

 You Won’t Get What You Want is an advanced piece of noise metal that is quite nearly perfect, and easily the best metal album of the year, if you’re up for the challenge.

     Daughters is an experimental, industrial metal act from Rhode Island. They’re well known for an absolutely hellish style, disjointed rhythms, wide array of influences, and, until recently, jarringly short tracks. Their 2003 debut LP, Canada Songs, had a runtime of just 11 minutes, with very few songs clearing a minute, which was complimented by the thrashing instrumentals of their early work. This continued on the slightly longer, Hell Songs, in 2007 which also hits hard and fast with a bit more character.

   This all changed, however, with what was meant to be their farewell project, which was self-titled and released in 2010. The record mixed elements of thrash, noise, and experimental metal with a heavy dose of post-punk to create a gothic cacophony of a farewell with a runtime that neared 30 minutes. Having bid the band farewell, their cult following was quite excited to hear news of an upcoming fourth album, and though listeners were quite surprised, they certainly weren’t let down.

   From the opening track, “City Song,” it’s very clear that we are in for something very different. The track feels like being lost in a dark ocean, with a driving bass, jarring snare-shots, and a panicked but hopeless vocal performance by Alexis Marshall. It’s sets a bleak tone, which the rest of the near 50 minute is all too happy to follow relentlessly.

   Energy is high on tracks like “The Reason They Hate Me,” or my personal favorite, “Long Road, No Turns.” Here, the drum work is explosive and the grating electronic leads make a listeners heart race. Daughters is able to use this manic noise rock to build tension in a unique way, not unlike a horror movie. It’s a style that, I would imagine, the vast majority of music listeners simply haven’t heard anywhere else.

   Tracks like “The Flammable Man,” and “The Lords Song,” call back to the earlier days of the group as the only songs to come in under three minutes. Here, we’re treated to a much heavier bleed in from the group’s more traditional punk influences along with the thrash style of released like Canada Songs. The bass guitar is especially brutal here, well mixed, and following a blistering tempo.

   On the other hand, “Satan in the Wait,” and “Ocean Song,” each top seven minutes, and make the most of every second. The former carries a horrific narrative over rhythmic drum and a howling guitar which almost mimics a siren, ending with a hellish chaos of shouting, squealing, and crashing cymbals. The latter is a true post-punk tune, telling what is essentially a horror story  over of the best instrumentals I’ve ever heard. These tracks are so fantastic and the slow burning style of Marshall’s story telling is so listenable that even longtime fans will find themselves wishing that Daughters had always been in the business of long-form, post-punk epics.

   The real shining point of the album, however, is the extremely unique instrumentation. The closer, “Guest House,” features a screeching synth that over scores the howling vocals well. “Less Sex,” is highlighted by a melodic choir part in the chorus, giving the track a distinct blues sound, and “Daughter,” opens with a gloomy piano riff which, though a bit gimmicky, is an interesting hook around which the rest of the tune is built.

   My complaints are slight, leading me to seriously contemplate my second ever perfect score, but, unfortunately, my complaints are present nonetheless. “Daughter,” is easily the weakest piece of the tracklist, held down by an odd organ section in the bridge. In addition, a few of the rhythm changes can be a bit underdeveloped, and the electric guitar, while used well for effect, could do with even a short turn in the spotlight. Aside from this, I must admit that the album lacks severely in replay value, with a tone so bleak and overbearing that, if you don’t find yourself in the mood, the project can simply come off as irritating, although, in fairness, it doesn’t seem that replay value and accessibility were ever goals held by Daughters.

   You Won’t Get What You Want is exactly the kind of album that music critics love. It tests the bounds of what music is and, in doing so, challenges even the most experienced music listener to make heads or tails of such a difficult piece of art. This album uses it’s smothering, gothic tone to tell interesting stories and create something that just doesn’t exist elsewhere in the music world, carrying all the lushness of a big budget rock album, but trading in the sweetness for horrific electronic tones and constant dissonance.

   You Won’t Get What You Want is an advanced piece of noise metal that is quite nearly perfect, and easily the best metal album of the year, if you’re up for the challenge.

9/10

HEAR YOU WON’T GET WHAT YOU WANThttps://open.spotify.com/album/7w7ZTlk8YLc0OxviTp97qA

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Elvis Costello Drops Yet Another Excellent LP

Look Now is a fun listen, and yet another project from one of the greatest musicians of all time.

     Elvis Costello is a new wave/pub-rock artist from the UK. He is nothing short of an icon of popular music and one of the most respected writers of all time, despite having only one platinum certification and not a single number one album over his four decade career. While he hasn’t had the kind of commercial success one would expect from legend, you’ll be hard pressed to find an influential artist, post-1970 who isn’t a fan.

   His sound is hard to nail down as, over his long career, Costello tried his hand and multiple writing and instrumental styles. However, there is a general punk slant to much of what he’s done, as well as an affinity for the orchestral composition of new wave. He’s also flirted with jazz influences, recently working with The Roots on his 2013 release, Wise Up Ghost. Most of all, his lyricism is unique, poetic, and above all, powerful. Most fans agree that his massive discography is simply devoid of weakness. Because of this, I was over the moon to hear of Look Now’s release, and for good reason.

   Costello’s vocal, though aging, is quite effective on this album. Slower selections like my personal favorite, “Don’t Look Now,” are obvious examples of this, but he also keeps up well on tracks with beefier instrumentals, such as “Burnt Sugar is So Bitter,” or “Unwanted Number.”

   In addition, his lyricism hasn’t lost a beat. “Under Lime” tells a unique story dealing in sexuality and relationships, while “Photographs Can Lie,” is a beautifully written tale of love gone bad. On this LP, Elvis writes about life with the voice of a man who’s lived it, seeing new angles to old stories, and showing a wonderful understanding of love, change, and time.

   All of this, however, pales in comparison to the real highlight of Look Now, the excellent instrumentation. Elvis’ most recognizable musical partners, The Imposters, join him on this project to incredible effect. The bass guitar is active on tracks like “Mr. & Mrs. Hush,” or “I Let the Sun Go Down,” pushing the tracks along while providing a playful depth to each of them.

   The drums set a danceable groove on track after track. The rimshots on “Why Won’t Heaven Help Me,” are the highlight of the verses, while the open high-hat on “Under Lime,” moves the song to a perfect tempo. The rest of the album sees the drums take a more laid back, but equally important back seat, with an especially impressive ear for cymbal accents.

   Beyond the basic band instrumentation, this album’s palette is quite broad. The choirs on “Suspect My Tears,” and “Under Lime,” are fantastic, while the keys on intimate pieces like the beautiful “Stripping Paper,” or the closer, “He’s Given Me Things,” are simple and perfect. This record also features some excellent horn and string parts that build an orchestral sound and leave listeners wondering excitedly what they might hear next.

   There are very few complaints to make here. There are a few pacing issues, with most every track landing somewhere between three and four minutes and following a similar form. Costello’s voice can be a bit much at times, showing age by wavering on longer notes and in the higher reaches of his range.

   Aside from these small issues, Look Now is an exciting addition to Costello’s massive catalog. The mastery of form and helming of such a broad palette is the kind of skill which only comes from the kind of long, storied career this man has under his belt.

   Look Now is a fun listen, and yet another project from one of the greatest musicians of all time.

8/10

HEAR LOOK NOW: https://open.spotify.com/album/7dvbHsQbTs5RqE9iRgXHCC

Greta Van Fleet Releases Explosive First LP, Despite Production Issues

Greta Van Fleet still has a lot of room to grow, but this album leaves me excited to take that journey with them.

     Greta Van Fleet is neo-classic rock group based in Frankenmuth, Michigan. The group has achieved massive success since the release of their debut EP, Black Smoke Rising in the summer of 2017 and the follow up, From the Fires a few months later. The latter was certified gold and peaked in the top 40 on billboard, reaching number one in their hard rock classification.

   Their sound is often compared to that of Led Zeppelin, an observation which gains the bulk of its credibility from from frontman, Josh Kiszka’s high pitched vocal with which he wails over virtually every track. Beyond this, the instrumental work, particularly Jake Kiszka’s guitar, is evocative of the indulgent style of rock’s golden age in the early to mid-1970’s. Greta Van Fleet have continually dispelled the direct comparisons to Zeppelin in many interviews, and it’s become something of a hot topic in online circles. Personally, the similarities are far to obvious to be missed, but it’s never bothered me or effected my enjoyment of the band’s work, which I’ve found to be some of the best in modern rock music over the past few years. That being said, this LP had it’s work cut out, as it was tasked with exploring new sonic landscapes without losing the group’s classic style. It’s a difficult juggling act, but I must say, Anthem of the Peaceful Army performs it quite well.

   The Greta we know and love is hear in full force, particularly on tracks like “The Cold Wind,” or the lead single, “When the Curtains Fall.” Here, we’re treated to well toned guitar work, rock beats, and pure rock vocals. It’s fun, it’s powerful, and in every way it’s classic, which is everything we’ve come to love and expect from the group.

   There are also consistent improvements, however. Sam Kiszka’s bass work, which has been lacking up to this point, is excellent on “The New Day,” and “You’re the One.” In addition, Danny Wagner’s drums on tracks like “Mountain of the Sun,” are vastly better on this project, retaining the basic rock beats of From the Fires, but adorning them with well placed fills and crashes.

   And, of course, Josh and Jake Kiszka’s contributions on vocals and guitar respectively are fantastic, as expected. A tracks like “Lover, Leaver,” and “Brave New World,” just couldn’t be accomplished by many bands in the current rock scene, but Josh and Jake muscle them to excellence through catchy hooks and soaring vocals, both of which can be found on nearly every second of the forty minute runtime.

   The best addition to Greta’s arsenal, overall, are the dark and atmospheric tracks like “Watching Over,” and the opener, “Age of Man.” The latter works in a bit of orchestration and the latter uses an almost minimalist approach and an excellent guitar solo, but each achieve a more nocturnal feel than was ever possible on the band’s earlier hits. The best example of this comes in the closer, “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer),” the longest track on the record and my personal favorite, which dances between droning guitars, minimal interludes, and explosive screams to carry all of its six minutes. This is an obvious moment of growth for Greta, and as such a young band thrown into such a bright spotlight, the willingness to branch out is commendable, as well as sonically enjoyable.

   On the other hand, there was a surprising amount of acoustic guitar on this record, which doesn’t always work to the band’s favor. “The New Day” utilizes this quite well, but tracks like “Anthem” and my least favorite entry, “You’re the One,” which also suffers from poor lyricism and, my biggest complaint with this record as a whole, boring production.

   The production team at Republic records seems to have missed a large portion of what makes Greta Van Fleet the group they are, and because of this, this album suffers from multiple missed opportunities. This band has the opportunity to build a lush, maximalist sound, and instead, it sounds like for, albeit talented, musicians performing together. One of the best elements of the indulgent, stadium rock of the 70’s was hearing lead riffs, drum fills, and vocal hooks seem to peak above a powerful wave of sound for only a moment. This is a missed opportunity which I hope will be corrected in later projects.

   Anthem of the Peaceful Army is a blast to listen to. Its made to be played very loud and harken to a much earlier, prouder time in rock’s history, and yet it delivers substance along with its aesthetic. Every aspect of the band’s sound has improved and, despite a few lyrical and production missteps along the way, they’ve crafted an extremely enjoyable LP.

   Greta Van Fleet still has a lot of room to grow, but this album leaves me excited to take that journey with them.

7/10

HEAR ANTHEM OF THE PEACEFUL ARMYhttps://open.spotify.com/album/7zeCZY6rQRufc8IHGKyXGX

Coheed and Cambria Drop Epic Album, Keeping the Fire Alive on Ninth Release

The Unheavenly Creatures is a blast to listen to, and a must hear for fans of Coheed and Cambria or fans of good rock music in general.

     Coheed and Cambria is a progressive/emo rock group from Nyack, New York. They’ve been working fairly steadily since 2002, though they’ve achieved little commercial success save two gold records in 2003 and 2005. Regardless, they’ve begun to amass a substantial fanbase over the long run, many of whom are willing to follow the group down the conceptual rabbit hole that is the Coheed and Cambria discography.

   On top of the intricate, longwinded concepts that are riddled throughout their work, the band has built quite a unique sound. They blend elements of progressive and arena rock with a heavy dose of 1970’s rock influence. The guitars are screaching, the drums groove, and most importantly, Claudio Sanchez’ lead vocals and frontman presence is powerful and commanding. Today, the sound comes off as a bit indulgent, especially for listeners like myself who grew up enjoying the massive wave of loud, metal influenced, emo-rock of the mid 2000’s. Thankfully, The Unheavenly Creatures is more of the same.

   The key to this record is tightness. Coheed and Cambria move across this 70-minute runtime as one perfectly cohesive unit, swelling and falling together, in a way that’s rarely seen in rock today. Even on the less listenable tracks like “Love Protocol,” or “Old Flames,” listeners have little trouble following them because the instrumentals are so well crafted and each member plays off of each other so well.

   Tugging the band apart for a bit, Travis Stever’s guitar is the closest to a lead instrumental voice. His leads on “True Ugly,” or “All on Fire,” color the tracks well and make them some of the best cuts on the album, but his best contribution is in the rhythm department. His hooks on “The Dark Sentencer,” or “Pavilion,” for example, are thick and driving, mixing a great tone with excellent play.

   Zach Cooper and Josh Eppard helm the bass and drums respectively and their parts are hard to separate because of an interesting technique they use. Cooper’s bass is, among other things, used primarily to color the kick drums and tom grooves throughout the album. This is perhaps most apparent on a tracks like “Black Sunday,” and “Queen of the Dark,” where a prominent bass part follows the lower pitched drums, giving another layer to Eppard’s work.

   None of this, however, is as meaningful to this album as Claudio Sanchez’ vocals. He sings with an epic power but an expert touch, never overpowering a track but finding perfect ear worm hooks and blasting them to the forefront. This applies to nearly every second of the record but to name a few, the title track, “Toys,” “It Walks Among Us,” and especially “Night-Time Walkers,” benefit from this in a massive way. There is just no way around saying that Sanchez is the best part of The Unheavenly. Creatures by a mile.

   The best track on this album is so good, I thought it would deserve its own paragraph. “The Gutter,” is one of the funnest, most indulgent rock songs I’ve heard since the days of My Chemical Romance. It’s a sugar rush of power chords, grooving drums, and an undeniable performance from Claudio Sanchez. The production is excellent here as well, maybe the only time it’s really noticeable, as the the vocal harmonies are well placed in the mix and pushing the stereo image is especially rich near the end.

   My complaints with this record are far from substantial, but they are nagging. Several of the intros feature odd pianos or synth instrumentation which rarely works at all and often only serves to kill any momentum gained by the soaring moments of the previous tracks. In addition, the two worst tracks on the album, and the only ones I genuinely can’t imagine myself ever revisiting, are the opener “Prologue,” and the closer “Lucky Stars.” The former runs far too long with little to offer and is the only track to focus so heavily on the concept, a storyline which has run across nearly every release of the band’s decade and a half career, to be enjoyable for the uninitiated. The latter does feature some solid acoustic guitar work and a fun guitar solo from Stever, but it just doesn’t mesh with the overall sound of the record, and so doesn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion to such an epic project.

   If I could choose one word to describe The Unheavenly Creatures, It would be indulgent. For fans of the epic, emo-rock of the mid 2000s, this album hits the spot in a major way. There are some issues, but those flaws, for the most part, are small and forgettable, quickly blasted from our ears by the next soaring chorus or powerful guitar riff.

   The Unheavenly Creatures is a blast to listen to, and a must hear for fans of Coheed and Cambria or fans of good rock music in general.

8/10

HEAR THE UNHEAVENLY CREATUREShttps://open.spotify.com/album/42S0lDJT9wHKCVaMGgqKdm

Mudhoney’s Tenth Studio Release is a Brash Punk Jam, Hectic but Brave

While Digital Garbage isn’t perfect, it is yet another strong showing for the most important band you’ve never heard of.

     Mudhoney is an American grunge/punk band based in Seattle, WA. Often called “the most important band you’ve never heard of,” the group’s early work following their formation in 1988 was released on Sub-Pop Records and was massively influential in the early grunge scene which eventually gave birth to the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and fellow Sub-Pop group, Nirvana. Unlike their label mates, however, Mudhoney has remained with Sub-Pop for the duration of their career with ten albums over three decades, each critically well received, but none finding commercial success.

   The group is lauded for their heavy guitars, blues and punk influence, and brutally honest lyricism. Their sound is far less accessible than the bulk of grunge music thanks to their jarring sound and frontman Mark Arm’s unique singing voice. Nevertheless, Mudhoney has built quite a loyal following over the years, including a long list of very famous and influential fans, while continuing to work day jobs in their hometown. Now, 30 years after the band’s groundbreaking debut, Mudhoney is back with Digital Garbage, and it seems that they still have quite a bit to say.

   The punk influences are worn directly on the sleeve in this album. Tracks like “Paranoid Core,” or “21st Century Pharisees” are pure punk rock jams complete with distorted guitars and metronomic high-hats. “Night and Fog,” even pulls a few post-punk inspirations, easily the most modern style featured on the record.

   Steve Turner turns in the best performance of the group on guitars. “Hey Neanderf**k” leans entirely on his bluesy riffs and fuzzy distortion while his active play on the closer, “Oh Yeah,” makes the short, 90 second song more than worthy of wrapping up the project. He’s constantly moving, often toying with dissonance and rarely settling for simple chords and rhythm, giving Digital Garbage a constant forward motion throughout it’s 35-minute runtime.

   The rest of the band works well with each other, showing off the kind of tightness that comes from three decades with only one substantial lineup change. The drums are fantastic on “Next Mass Extinction,” complementing the open blues tone set by the harmonica melodies, while the bass intro on the opener “Nerve Attack,” is the highlight of the admittedly tame track.

   Lyrically, Digital Garbage is nothing short of pure, distilled punk of the political variety. Mark Arm’s criticism of modern culture is especially sharp when his gaze is fixed on the current state of organized religion on “Prosperity Gospel,” or my favorite cut, “Messiah’s Lament.” Here, he turns the scalpel of whit to the conjoined nature of American Christianity to the Republican Party and right wing ideology. This is nearly as sharp in “Kill Yourself Live,” as Arm lambasts today’s youth for their obsessions with social media and glorification of self-harm in addition to providing the albums title on an anthemic bridge.

   My first and strongest criticism, however, comes on this same topic, namely in the lyrics to “Please Mr. Gunman,” which, I believe to be in quite bad taste. Of course, there are no topics off limits to artists, especially in punk rock, but the song sets out to tackle issues like mass shootings, religious hypocrisy, and national apathy, doing so with the grace of thirteen year old arguing with their teacher. I won’t use the term “offensive,” because, as I said, no topic is off the table to good writing, but issues like these need tact and nuance, which they are not afforded on this, the worst track on the album.

   Arm’s voice, though unique, can be a bit much at a few moments. At times, he is a dynamic leader, and at times, he sounds like Weird Al Yankovic trying his hand at punk rock. In addition, the album has a tendency to be a bit one-note, with many songs sounding very similar, though the short runtime and energetic spirit helps smooth this over.

   Digital Garbage is a fun listen and in many respects, it’s one of the bravest punk records of the last decade. The political statements on this album are the kind of brash, boldfaced lyrics that are rarely heard outside of the underground. A hugely influential rock band with a catalog full of classics, it’s good to hear Mudhoney still working and putting out such high quality work.

   While Digital Garbage isn’t perfect, it is yet another strong showing for the most important band you’ve never heard of.

6/10

HEAR DIGITAL GARBAGE: https://open.spotify.com/album/3VlqKyu14rAorKhWFStRMY

Revocation Drops Thrashing but Technical 7th LP

While the record is flawed, it’s a passionate attempt to balance loud, thrashing instruments with virtuosity and precision which, when it works, works gloriously.

     Revocation is a thrash/death metal trio based in Boston, MA. They founded nearly two decades ago and quickly gained notoriety from a very strong, self-released EP and a follow up LP in 2006 and 2008 respectively. After signing with Relapse Records in 2009, the group went on to release three very successful projects, the last of which, 2013’s self-titled album, actually charted in the billboard 200. Recently, they’ve signed to Metal Blade Records for 2014’s Deathless and 2016’s Great Is Our Sin, each of which charted and received heavy critical acclaim in the US and parts of Europe.

   The groups is known, first and foremost, for their technical abilities on each instrument and attention to detail in every riff and fill. This serves them well in a genre which caters to fans with a strong knowledge of musicianship and provides a window in for listeners from outside the genre who don’t necessarily know what to listen for in heavy metal. They’ve gone through a few lineup changes over the years, with frontman David Davidson remaining as the only member of the original cast, but they haven’t lost any of their edge or skill. With that, let’s take a look at The Outer Ones.

   The backbone and workhorse of this group is Ash Pearson on drums. Having just joined in 2015 to replace longtime and founding member, Phil Dubois-Coyne, Pearson stepped into big shoes, which he filled instantly. His ability to switch from complex groves to ridiculously fast, driving passages is extremely impressive. This shines a lot on tracks like “That Which Consumes All Things,” or “Fathomless Catacombs,” but it is the spine of the record as a whole and allows Revocation to put clear separations between their thrash and death metal influences.

   While the drums may be the bedrock, you could be forgiven for missing much of Pearson’s work thanks the distraction of David Davidson’s soaring lead guitars. The solo on the opener and my favorite cut, “Of Unworldly Origins,” just cuts the very dense mix in half with power and direction and the way he toys with atonation and dissonance on the opening of the title track gives an eery feel which is far too rare on this record. This, of course, not to mention the lead only passage on the closer, “A Starless Darkness,” which is simply fantastic.

   The rhythm guitar is excellent is as well. Davidson’s tone and chunky play works well over the drums to enforce the rhythm well on tracks like “Vanitas.” Throughout the entire album, this guitar is an essential part of pulling listeners along for the constantly changing rhythms and tempos that The Outer Ones throws at them.

   Vocals are a much weaker area as Davidson is a much better guitarist than vocalist. While he has high points like “Luciferous,” where his more thrashing voice comes through to imbue the track with a certain epical feel, most of his performances aren’t memorable, and tend leave listeners waiting for the next virtuosic instrumental passage.

   The bass guitar is very nearly non-existent on this project. Brett Bamburger’s work peaks its head out in tracks like “Luciferous,” or “Vanitas” but weather its buried in the mix or just forgettable and unnoticeable, the bass can hardly be heard outside of these few spotlighting moments. Because of this, every single track is wanting of a depth which just doesn’t come from the rest of the rather narrow instrumental pallet.

   Easily the album’s worst quality, though, is the production. Accomplished metal producer, Zeuss takes the reigns on The Outer Ones and paints this record with more than a few cliched choices. The swirling fade in on “Blood Atonement,” is extremely overused and dated and the fade out on “A Starless Darkness,” is simply unforgivable and all but ruins one of Revocation’s strongest pieces in the tracklist. Beyond this, the entire project has a very thin sound, the bass guitars are buried through much of it, and what stereo imaging there is comes off as gimmicky and unnatural. This seems to be simply a case of trying to fix what isn’t broke.

   All together, The Outer Ones is a fun, heavy release from one of the most talented groups in rock music. The less than 50 minute runtime doesn’t overstay its welcome, tracks are well paced and consistently entertaining, and the musicianship is nothing short of fantastic.

   While the record is flawed, it’s a passionate attempt to balance loud, thrashing instruments with virtuosity and precision which, when it works, works gloriously.

6/10

HEAR THE OUTER ONES: https://open.spotify.com/album/1Ela7sSi5MIp9HmEuLbCdY

Thou Drop’s Fourth Release of 2018

Thou is one of the hardest working groups in metal today, and Magus is yet another fantastic entry into their catalog.

     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.

6/10

HEAR MAGUS: https://open.spotify.com/album/2KQjqzq9VUEjIXaSZq2Xoi