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A Rock Homage Done Right - 80%

Thumbman, December 3rd, 2019

Thou and Kowloon Walled City (best band name ever?) doing a split together makes all the sense in the world. They're two of modern sludge's best acts after all. Sludge holds on to a rock connection that much of metal has shed long ago, and what these sludge bros choose to cover actually makes all the sense in the world. I've always felt like sludge and grunge were weird step-brother genres or something. Both owe a lot to the Melvins, and are dudes who got really into Black Flag and Black Sabbath taking it in either a more rock or a more metal direction. Anyway, both bands do a stellar job at paying homage to the rock they grew up on.

Low is a band I used to fuck with a bit back in the day, but kind of dropped off listening to them for whatever reason. I recently revisited I Could Live In Hope and was left completely floored. Talk about just about a perfect album. The interplay between male and female vocals is wonderfully pulled off, there's a subtle genius to their songwriting skills and as far as tones and production it really is the top of the line. Although Things We Lost in the Fire is an album I still need to revisit, "July" is a really good ballad that manages to be simultaneously dour and uplifting. Kowloon Walled City brings in a guest female vocalist for the cover, and she does a hella good job with it. The band makes the song heavier, but it doesn't really break the barrier into becoming a metal song. It's a nice middle ground between the band and the band they're covering. I kind of wish they'd also use some hoarser male vocals in the song, which would be a cool take on the interplay between the vocals in the original song.

Soundgarden's grunge anthem "4th of July" is one that needs no introduction. It's also one that makes perfect sense for a sludge band to cover. The '90s were truly a strange time for mainstream rock music - it's pretty crazy in hindsight that a band this heavy with such a muddy sound was able to skyrocket to commercial heights. Thou keep their cover closer to the original, they just turn up chunkiness and make it a bit sludgier. Honestly, the original Soundgarden song is about as close to sludge as rock gets, so Thou are as happy as pigs in shit here. The Chris Cornell impression here is great, and I kind of wish they just left out the harsh vocals. The screams just come off as kind of silly here. Oh well, they don't ruin it and it's still a cool cover.

For whatever reason these two sludge heavyweights came together to do a July-themed split, I'm happy I did because they put a really cool spin on two good rock bands. The heavier, weirder, more atmospheric etc. rock of the 90s and early 2000s have had a huge influence on sludge metal, and this is a super fun homage to those influences.