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A Slave To Heaviness. - 60%

Perplexed_Sjel, June 13th, 2010

My second doom/drone/sludge band of the day and, thankfully, this one are a lot better, though still fairly mediocre. Thou are a United States based band who have surprisingly been around for some time now. To me they still feel like a fairly young and inexperienced band, but five years together and lots of material later, they actually have a lot more experience than I give them credit for. ‘Peasant’, the sophomore full-length, which has seemingly been obscured by the amount of split albums Thou have participated on, is a lot like I would have expected if I had no previous knowledge of the band other than what genre, or hybrid of genres in this case, they play in. The sound is a mixture of all three genres, though mostly doom and sludge, in my eyes, with a very thick guitar sound and vocals that match them up by rasping more so than anything else. This album is excruciatingly heavy and given the three genres it attempts to mesh together into one cohesive movement, would you really expect anything else?

The aim of the day is to be as heavy as fuck and try to forge some catchy melodies beneath the heaviness to keep the crowd interested. Thou do this, but with such a simplistic and heavy-minded style, I cannot help but feel a little bit bored with the depiction. To me, this style was made interesting by musicians like Justin Broadrick by placing cleaner vocals over the top and dreamy atmospherics. Thou tend to live up to the standards of the three genres, rather than pushing the envelop to try to find new territories with which they can exploit and, at the same time, forge themselves out a unique destiny. The material present here on ‘Peasant’ is soaked in tar and is as sludgy as possible. There are no grey zones, this is blacked out tar. The style isn’t all that adventurous but, particularly songs like ‘The Work Ethic Myth’, they’re quite well written with lots of melody to scream and shout about, as opposed to a wildly improvised feel which can come attached to bands of this nature.

The drums do give off a feel of improvisation with heavy use of double bass and the hi hat, but the rest of the instrumentation is cautiously brought together, as on songs like ‘An Age Imprisoned’, especially when the song negates the vocals and really slows down to an agonising crawl. The material reminds me of lazy Sundays, which today is, quite conveniently. The songs has a quicker tempo to begin with, though its never played at a blistering pace, but as soon as the vocals disappear, the instrumentation drags and drags with epic use of distortion and feedback. The capacity of the song to showcase emotion is heightened by the slower dirge like pace, but the sorrowful overtones aren’t enough to fend boredom and uninteresting atmospherics away as the distortion begins to dominate and the good work of the melodies, particularly on the previous song, take a back seat when Thou really should have sought to push that style to the forefront rather than allowing it to fade with time. This is a real shame because the opening song is terrific. The vocals don’t exactly enhance proceedings, but they don’t affect the clarity and positivity of the melodies. The cleaner side of the band is also affected by the haphazard yearning of heaviness and this could have been a side which made Thou more unique than they eventually became.

‘Belt of Fire To Guide Me, Cloak of Night To Hide Me’ has a very poetical name, but its rather jazzy opening is destroyed completely by the torturous vocals. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the atmospherics tend to suffer when the odd vocal display comes into play. The vocals would be better suited to a black metal display, not this type of fuzzy doom and sludge. I find that the longer the album goes on, the less the melodies have a voice to showcase their talent from. The opening song deals well with the melodies, pushing them to the foreground but, after that, they fade away into the background and the heaviness takes over and deals a tremendous blow to the soul of the band. The heaviness is fine, but there needs to be a back-up plan to support it. The melodies did that on the opening song without compromising the heaviness factor, but Thou haven’t seemed to realise that. There is a distant post-metal influence that affected the beginning of the song (as well as the monumental and sorrowful beginning to ‘Burning Black Coals And Dark Memories’) but it doesn’t last long enough to get to grips with the albums atmosphere, or structure. A rather disjointed affair too concerned with being heavy than being worthy.