2018 was a big year of releases for Louisiana sludge metal giants Thou, coming in at a total of 6! The full length “Magus,” released August 31st, still holds a spot near the top of my list of favourite albums ever. The 11 songs found on the album are placed perfectly together, and the lyrics are so wonderfully thought-provoking, complex and emotional.
Starting off the album is 10 minute track “Inward.” There’s an incoming wave of distortion, a riff that feels as if it is two arms grasping in the nothingness, squealing feedback and the clobbering crash of drums that make way for the arrival of words:
“Descend into the ever-widening, yawning chasm of black thought.”
The next track, “My Brother Caliban,” is pulsing beats and synths that bleed so beautifully into “Transcending Dualities.” There’s a chugging march of guitars and drums that trudge along a slithering bass line. The guitars in the background, heavy and distorted, inch upward over retching vocals:
“We are vast unknowable beings without the confines of your perception.”
“The Changeling Prince” starts with a riff that crawls upward toward the sky. The sway this song has is like wading in a rocky white river, letting the waves sucker punch you back and forth. The pacing of this track changes up quite a few times, especially when nearing the end. The final lyrics:
“Behind the mask, another mask!”
Track 5, “Sovereign Self,” starts with notes that ring out gently and sombrely. The vocals that float atop are achingly beautiful, and then the heaviness drops down and the retching vocals enter. “Divine Will” is hypnotic. The harmonic voices and the pummelling drums echoing out create an atmosphere like no other. The beginning chords strummed out in “In the Kingdom of Meaning” bring to mind a feeling of wading in warm, shallow water; the sun shimmering through the spaces between the breeze-blown leaves. The instruments sound distant until another layer of guitars are added, bringing the sound to the forefront. The drums are brought in and the grating sound of the bass is more prominent. There’s the briefest pause in the heaviness like the calm before the storm and then the drums roll back in like floodgates bursting open. The rest of the song sounds like being dragged along by the sudden seemingly endless flow of water until you are spit out into the sea around the five minute mark, left to float until nothing but miles upon miles of empty, choppy water surrounds you as you are “writhing in chaos…” The additional vocals from Emily McWilliams add so much beauty and wonder to a track that already feels so lush with sound. This nearly 10 minute track is one of my favourites on the album. Track 8, “Greater Invocation of Disgust,” begins in the most undeniably Nirvana-esque way with the downtuned strings, slow chugging, and background noise. The song picks up quickly with the chugging drums and the gradual increase in noisiness, and then it all erupts beneath the impassioned “I give to you, I give to you…” The riff, that slow trudge, calls to mind Sisyphus back-breakingly rolling his rock up the steep mountainside. “…a brief assembly of ugly thoughts…” The anger in the lyrics and the vocals are palpable and the ferocity of the instruments back this up. The buildup at 4:56 is the arms becoming weak and the boulder rolling all the way back to the bottom of the mountain; the pummelling drums shaking the ground beneath you. The ending lyrics sum up this thought well:
“Our legacy adding up to a heap of meaninglessness, we thoughtless, unknowing, lifeless offal.”
Our lives resulting in nothing but food for the vultures. Track 9, “Elimination Rhetoric,” begins without hesitation. We are instantly thrust into a chasm of noise and echoing strings. “Awake, awake from the misogyny-fueled fever dream.” The lyrics are evocative and read like philosophical 18th century poems. From “…locked away in the mansion of silence…” to “Raze the grey throne of deep-rooted self annihilation that makes fetish of refusal and conceit of lamentation,” there are so many vivid images that the mind can conjure up upon hearing these lines. “The Law Which Compels” is three minutes of scathing noise and grating vocals building up into pulsating noise that gives way to the final track, “Supremacy.” The first few minutes of this song seem to expand and pulse beneath the repeated “Assume the God form, seize the hidden shape. That sovereign self, celestial aspect…” The song changes up around the four minute mark with rolling drums, squealing feedback, and increasingly dreadful lyrics. There’s a long, drawn-out moment of distortion, a low hum, and then silence.
The lyrics, the vocals, the riffs, the use of dynamics, the production – it’s all done undeniably well and it will hold up for many, many, many years to come.