With the forthcoming release of Heathen, the 4th full-length release from Baton Rouge's Thou, it has recently come to my attention that some people may not be as excited as they should be for this release.
Most people came to Thou through their critically-acclaimed album Summit in 2010, but anyone who digs a little deeper than that sprawling, experimental masterpiece will discover a multi-faceted band who deliver scathing commentary on a variety of modern socio-political issues, filtered through the vocabulary and imagery of the past, set to a horrifying soundtrack that uses sludge metal as it's base, but has ever-expanding tendrils into post-rock, hardcore, and more unusual sounds like wind instruments and spoken word.
This constant reinvention and consistently high quality have made them a band worthy of tracking down every release they've put out, which I have done my best to do. This is far from my full collection, it's just most of it has been in storage for the past couple of years:
As a primer on why I love this band so much, I've put together a short list of my favourite Thou tracks. There really is no excuse for not giving this band a shot, seeing as their ENTIRE discography is available for free download via their website: get right-click-save-as-ing over at http://noladiy.org/thou.html.
Smoke Pigs (taken from Thrive And Decay / various labels / 2008)
Beginning with a sample taken from the Mark Wahlberg movie Shooter (in itself an excellent popcorn commentary on some of America's fundamental flaws, don't be turned off by the words 'Mark Wahlberg movie'), with the crack of a gunshot through the head of greed and injustice the track kicks off. It's an absolutely apoplectic exploration of the dichotomy that not All Cops Are Bastards, but that the idea of policing others in itself is flawed and dangerous.
Any track that contains the lyrics "I don't want to hear about racial profiling, broken bones, or prison rape; or another unarmed kid filled from head to toe with fifty government-issued bullets" has got to be worth a listen over the endless 'weed and satan' bollocks this genre is better known for.
Burning Black Coals And Dark Memories (taken from Peasant / Level Plane Records / 2008)
With plaintive post-rock chimes, this track lulls you into a false sense of security before screeching vocals and howling feedback drag it into darker territory. Pretty bleak stuff considering it takes it's title from an Eddie Vedder lyric from the Into The Wild soundtrack.
This live clip from a couple of years ago also best demonstrates the sheer fucking intensity of vocalist Brian Funck, roaring wild-eyed into the mic like a politically-aware goblin. When I saw them play this track in the 007 in Prague last summer, I was actually scared. No other song inspires chills up my spine like this does...
I Was Ignored And Judged And Cast Down (taken from Tyrant / One Eye Records (reissue via Southern Lord / 2007)
The halfway point of this song, when the absolutely heart-aching melodies intertwine with the foul vocals and distortion, is one of my favourite moments in music ever, I sometimes play through this whole album just to make the payoff of this moment even more worthwhile. When it comes, I hope you'll hear why.
The Work Ethic Myth (taken from Peasant / Level Plane Records / 2008)
Musically this is one of their less adventurous songs, but the lyrics alone speak for this themselves, and should resonate with anyone who feels trapped in this broken society:
We have paved the roads that have led to our own oppression. Fear of the unknown, of rejection, has put brutes and villains in power.
The fetters that restrict our arms and throats were cast by our own hands, just as we have set our own guards at the door.
We drag boulders a thousand leagues to erect their palaces. We have established a system of education that celebrates sacrifice and creates generations of slaves.
Hold hands in a ritual of deception.
Hold hands in a ritual of desolation.
Hold hands in a ritual of self destruction.
We are the accomplice class: footstools for our masters, spineless bastards all.
Into The Void (taken from Through The Empires Of Eternal Void / Vendetta Records / 2009)
This heavy as absolute fucking fuck version of one of Sabbath's best tracks is dragged howling into the 21st century, proving that both their words and their tones are as relevant as ever.
This may not be one of their own compositions, but the sound of the bass alone completely transforms this track; I guarantee that with headphones on and the volume up, you will actually begin to feel your teeth dislodge when it gets to that bit. You'll hear what I mean soon enough...
There are dozens of other tracks I could share and gush about, I could genuinely discuss this band for hours if given the chance, but hopefully this selection will justify the hype, and convert a few others to a band who put most of the unimaginative low-n-slow crowd to shame.