“You need to listen to ‘Free Will’…” came the response from my friend Max after enquiring if I’d ever listened to Thou. Having exhausted myself to the point of boredom and growing tiresome of my obsession with hardcore, and everything that’s lumbered with it, I was looking for something new to get excited about once again. I’d never even come across Thou at all until this exchange of words, but I was enthralled by the vague description of “they’re heavy as fuck”, and I dove straight in with ‘Free Will’.
“We are at peace in our minor, subordinate role. Accept our frail, short lives” – ‘At the foot of Mt. Driskill’, Heathen
Upon my first impression, I completely wrote them off. The slow, lumbering sludged-out drones of these Louisiana monoliths completely went over my head, more than likely down to my own thick-headed approach to heavy music then (“it’s too fucking slow!”). Further down the line, after somewhat discovering a new obsession with all things doom, stoner and sludge metal, something drove me back to Thou. Once again, ‘Free Will’ was thrown in front of the firing squad to plead its case. Only this time, something clicked.
“Excessiveness is a virtue. Debasement is a virtue” – ‘New Orleans is a Hole’, The Sacrifice
Still, to this day, I can’t put my finger on what it was that infatuated me with Thou. Was it the gut-wrenching riffs that carry the weight of stampeding mammoths? The vocals that could strip the paint from your car? The underlying anarchist themes throughout the lyrics? Whatever it was, I knew I was onto something special. Something I’m still yet to come across elsewhere.
“We are the accomplice class: footstools for our masters, spineless bastards all” – ‘The Work Ethic Myth’, Peasant
With every release from an extensive yet hugely rewarding back catalogue, Thou display a staggering amount of depth across all aspects of their music. Few can wield riffs that turn from sledgehammers to the face to the sort of subtle melodies that post-rock giants fear to tread with such grace and powerful deliverance. Many recordings aren’t graced with the fortune of drums that hit you with rib-snapping dynamics. Then again, most artists aren’t Thou.
“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” – Smoke Pigs, Thrive & Decay
The lyrical themes of anarchism present throughout their entire works read out like standalone pieces of poetry by themselves, touching upon themes of feminism, prison liberation, political discourse and calls to hold people of authority accountable for their actions. Such themes are becoming more and more commonplace amongst interesting and forward-thinking bands and individuals, and Thou deliver these themes with the uttermost conviction behind every tortured scream. They stand strong in their beliefs with no quivers of backing down, no matter what adversity such beliefs bring about.
“Hail, our corporate overlords. Hail, self-destructive greed. Hail, our burial grounds” – View of a Burning City, Big City
Not being afraid to throw caution to the wind when it comes to songwriting either, there’s been a huge evolution in their sound since the band’s inception, starting with the humble sludged out-doom of their earliest works in Tyrant, to the critically-acclaimed, punishingly beautiful epic Heathen, to the group’s monolithic collaborative efforts with The Body. This has now been backed up with the surprise release of new EP The House Primordial, which acts as a counterpart to Heathen – showcasing a noisier, harsher sound throughout. Even taking songs from household names like Nirvana, Black Sabbath and Fleetwood Mac and turning them into haunting renditions no one else could conjure, Thou continue to tear apart any pre-conceived notions about themselves through each release.
“No longer the vehicle of her male counterpart, she is armed and militant. Yet in no way a reflection of the stolid directness, the frank simplicity, the violent impotence of the masculine savage” – The Witch Cunt, To the Chaos Wizard Youth
With the DIY ethos at its most rewarding nowadays, Thou have fully embraced and defined the definition of what DIY culture amongst musicians is today. From self-booking worldwide tours themselves and bringing friends in bands like Moloch across the Atlantic for shows, to releasing records through various exciting and strictly DIY labels like Robotic Empire, Gilead Media and Vendetta Records and putting out various splits themselves, Thou showcase a work ethic like no other. A work ethic that could even put DIY legends Black Flag to shame.
“Self-knowledge is the key to the perfect control of the will” – By Endurance We Conquer, Summit
The House Primordial came alongside a warning of new material to come forth over the coming months, and it could prove their most interesting and uncompromising material to-date, judging from what we’ve already been gifted a taste of. This, when coupled with one of the most intense live performances this writer has been granted the pleasure of seeing, means Thou have more than cemented themselves a place amongst the greatest of their time. Diving into the abyss that is their discography is a promise of great rewards, and a promise of impending violence. This is a promise to you, my friend.
Words: Dan Hallam