For those in the know, Baton Rouge’s Thou are a special act. Truly an underground cult, Thou have captured hearts with their intense and emotive brand of sludgy post-metal that isn’t afraid to usher in new dynamics, forms or influence throughout. After pivotal highs of Heathen (Gilead Media) and collaborative efforts with The Body, it would be several years before they emerged again as a recording band, only to offer an unprecedented four new releases this year. First of all were three EP releases that represented a different thread to their sound, leading to the full-length effort Magus (Sacred Bones), an album which could well be their pinnacle.
Right from the off, ‘Inward’ reveals the band at their abrasive, expansive best, with Bryan Funck’s venomous growls sounding almost echoed and piercing through the pummelling wall of noise. ‘My Brother Caliban’ gives a short-but-sharp dose of dissident noise, low mixing, and a frantic nature before leading into ‘Transcending Dualities’ which showcases a greater sense of melody throughout – surely a by-product of their cemented embracing of grunge inspirations as evidenced on the Rhea Sylvia (Deathwish) EP.
In comparison to much of their previous output, Magus is slower beast which does away with some of the Black Metal extremity that was most notable on Heathen. Instead, Magus uses slower and contemplative dynamics; explorative, contemplative and desperate rather than relying on any ferocity all while being no less powerful or resonant. The soft, clean vocals of Emily McWilliams may be a small part of the overall fabric but offer a hypnotic, soothing side, creating a contrast at the beginning of ‘Sovereign Self’.
With a long duration and a continuous crushing and evocative weight, Magus is certainly not an easy listen or one for the faint of heart, but one that warrants its lengthy dénouement, proving entrancing and deep for its entirety, peeling back more and more each time. It may prove a polarising effort for those who want more carved from the Heathen mould, but this is a band with a DIY attitude and a vision of their own path. This is an album that marries the most inner and visceral emotions through a sonic palette of bone-shattering heaviness to pure beauty, that will surely be hailed as one of the greatest albums of this year.