Thou are a band constantly mutating. Obscurity and convolution are key forces of their cryptic, esoteric approach to sludge and doom. Three vastly different sounding EPs have already been released this year, a trilogy that acts as a prelude to Magus, their fifth full-length that unifies and reconciles the disparate nature of EPs The House Primordial, Incosolable and Rhea Sylvia. 2014’s Heathen hit me hard – the band’s combination of monstrous sludge noise, ethereal melodies, solemn interludes, cryptic poetic lyrics, and painful snarling vocals mesmerized me, at first at least. Its 75-minute length made it difficult to consume though, especially with the punishing nature of the music. Isolated tracks still standout as some of the most gutwrenching, vicious tracks I’ve heard. The three EPs leading up to Magus left me confused yet anticipatory – the rawness of The House Primordial, the acoustic subtlety of Inconsolable, and the Alice in Chain‘s inspired grunge sound of Rhea Sylvia, on paper, seemed difficult to unify. But Thou are a band I believe can combine these things organically, or so I hope.
“This album is dedicated to the sacred ego, that wellspring of individuality and unique complexity,” the band state on their Bandcamp. Don’t expect to be grooving along to this dense beast at a house party. Magus is a continuation of Heathen with subtle differences – ambient and electronic interjections and a stronger implementation of melody – changing the journey. Instantly, the distorted, bass-heavy riffs that the band are known for are present. Opener “Inward” trudges forth with four-minutes of dense, monotone riffing that sucks up any trace of melody. A flash of tender colour midway through in the form of high-pitched chords offers brief reprieve, but for the most part Thou are satisfied to drain their sound of any lightness. These heavy riffs are commonplace, but Magus has a few less-formulaic tricks up its sleeve. The best example of Magus‘ sound is “The Changeling Prince” which travels through skewed melancholic vistas. It’s a shimmering mid-paced track that has heaviness and tenderness trading blows at frequent intervals. Thunderous slabs of sludge surge through the core of the song, although light, open-stringed clarity frequently emerges like a break in the clouds. Higher-pitched melodies are a more regular feature throughout the record, usually writhing for space above the claustrophobic low end rather than settling into a groove of their own.
Lyrically, Thou are on point again. A combination of a captivating vocal delivery by Bryan Funck – harsh, punishing yet clear – and cryptic yet not too over-the-top lyrics embellish many moments on Magus. The mantra ‘behind the mask another mask’ at the end of “The Changeling Prince” completes an excellently constructed song. In “In the Kingdom of Meaning” vocal bursts such as the Funck’s cry of ‘writhing in chaos’ intermingles with swirling, overlayed vocals and Emily McWilliam’s clean interjections to captivating, chaotic effect. The calming vocals of Emily McWilliams are present once again, a soothing remedy to the vitriol at the heart of the vast majority of Magus.
There are slithers of the sounds explored more prominently on their EPs. “Invocation of Disgust” opens with a drooping bass line straight from early 90s Alice in Chains. Its grungy tone carries through as thick solos and punchier riffs drive the song into more accessible territories. In this vein, the hard and crusty exterior of “Elimination Rhetoric,” initially dense and punishing with its constant slabs of downcast sludge, is cracked at the five-minute mark when a beautiful solo, accompanied by Elder-esque lightness, surges into the open. This is fleeting though. Darkness is quick to regain its domain, though flecks of beauty in the form of melodic licks do fight back. The acoustic lightness of Inconsolable is no where to be found on Magus, which is unfortunate. Instead, the raw noise of The House Primordial seeps into the mix, most blatantly during the three-minute interlude “The Law Which Compels.”
Magus is 75-minutes of heavy and unforgiving music. It’s too long. “Sovereign Self,” for example, is ten-minutes of gradually building fury that loses momentum. Tempo-shifts, pinch-harmonics and out-of-tune licks merge to form a writhing, headache inducing track which – though powerful – lingers for too long. Thou have a tendency to repeat motifs and ideas to the point of tedium, which is a real shame. My issue with Heathen is my issue with Magus: overindulgence. Thou are an immensely talented band with an enticing concept and a drive to explore all musical territories. However, the band need to trim their sound. Their third record Summit succeeded because it was potent, immersive, atmospheric and succinct: 41-minutes of tightly-weaved music that still remained punishing and vast. Magus also seems to lack the emotional peaks of Heathen, instead dwelling in angrier, more alienated territories that fail to reach the cathartic heights of previous releases. Still, compared to other similar bands of this style, Magus is very good.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sacred Bones Records
Releases Worldwide: August 31st, 2018
The post Thou – Magus Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.
Thu Aug 30 19:54:26 CEST 2018
In terms of ambition, stylistic diversity, and sheer righteous power, “Magus” is going to be a tough magic act for any band to follow.
Fri Sep 07 15:44:37 CEST 2018
Magus is Thou in their purest, clearest form. That might be because - after a string of collaborations with other artists - they’re able to focus on just being Thou. And Thou are a very good metal band.
Thou's basic sound combines a lot of styles which are in vogue: the weight and heft of powerful sludge, the atmospheres of post-metal and the scratchy, atonal undercurrent of noise rock. Because of their collaborations with bands like The Body it's tempting to lump Thou with difficult, abrasive experimental music, but Magus is fairly free of wild excess or brain-flaying drama. It is Thou’s most traditionally and accessible metal album so far, with a series of rewarding riffs scattered across the record.
The focus they exhibit is key to the record's success. The tracks have the weight, mass and filthy growl to rank them with the best of the genre, but are sprinkled with unpredictable moments. Rather than - as many other bands do - picking the form apart to make something abstract and joyless, it’s rewarding as a metal listener to come across such a thoughtful record that’s happy to be just be ugly and satisfying.
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Thu Nov 01 16:39:23 CET 201880
Magus, the fifth solo full-length proper by Thou, is already the fourth release of the year by the Louisiana sludge titans. A trio of mini-albums have already surfaced: The House Primordial (a deafeningly brilliant drone metal odyssey), Inconsolable (a surprising – but convincing – venture into dark folk), and Rhea Sylvia (a reorientation of the band’s typical sound, with more emphasis than usual on alternative rock elements). These three records, which would be more than enough to be going on with together or even in isolation, deserve to be regarded as more than mere appetisers. They may, however, be forgotten far sooner than they deserve, such is the majestic brilliance of Magus.
It’s worth emphasising, before continuing, that the typical question of whether this new LP is Thou’s best album to date is irrelevant. The group has set such a high standard for itself over the duration of its 13-year career that this is better seen as simply the latest chapter in a consistently excellent discography rather than a standout release in its own right. Magus is also (narrowly) the band’s longest effort to date, however, and thus could be fairly considered to provide the most comprehensive overview of everything the group does so well.
Anyone familiar with previous efforts will know exactly what that is: huge blackened doom riffs, gut-wrenchingly raw vocals, a genuine sense of apocalyptic doom. Magus has all these things in spades, consistently proving reminiscent of giants of the heavy music underground whilst retaining a distinctive character. Opener ‘Inward’ starts things off like a small avalanche, and the rocks keep tumbling from that point onwards. ‘My Brother Caliban’ provides a brief diversion into vicious lo-fi black metal: think Nattens Madrigal-era Ulver finding themselves opening for Fudge Tunnel. ‘Transcending Dualities’ is what Down might sound like if Phil Anselmo embraced black metal’s vocal stylings rather than the neo-Nazi flirtations of some of its pioneers. ‘The Changeling Prince’ is the sound of a meeting between Alice in Chains and Cult of Luna, ‘Elimination Rhetoric’ a fair approximation of what early Neurosis records might have been like with Pink Floyd-esque guitar flourishes. Closer ‘Supremacy’ wraps the album up as if condemning all that’s gone before it, appropriately leading the record to collapse into droning feedback.
Like Eyehategod at their most savage, or great post-rock bands at their least self-indulgent, Thou are fully aware of the power of timing. This is as a record that ekes out every last moment of punishing heaviness. Repetition can be a bad thing. In fact on most contemporary sludge records it is the main problem. Thou are able to balance their repetition however. ‘Sovereign Self’, one of the album’s three tracks to breach the ten-minute mark, is a case in point. The subtle tempo alterations on offer in this one mid-album highlight alone highlight the band’s gifts as songwriters. There are no clunky section transitions on offer. Thou are able to make everything cohesive, and thus all the more powerful.
If there’s a criticism to be made here it’s that, as ever, Thou’s consistency makes their records somewhat overwhelming. Magus’ arrival via Sacred Bones makes it likely to become many listeners’ first Thou album. Whether it is suitable for such a position, given the more concise appeal of the band’s first three full-lengths, is questionable. Nonetheless, much like the question of whether this is the band’s finest work to date, such doubts should not distract from the fact that Magus is a successful affirmation of Thou’s place as being amongst the greatest heavy bands on the planet.
Thu Aug 30 19:46:24 CEST 201878
The Baton Rouge sludge-metal quartet’s fifth proper full-length marks the latest tsunami in the endless storm of defeaning sound, political fury, and overwhelming prolificness that is Thou.
Sat Sep 08 07:00:00 CEST 2018