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Thou Shall Not - 83%

Sweetie, October 24th, 2019

A way to quickly repel my interest is to start talking about a band that classifies themselves as drone/sludge metal, as I seldom find anything in that genre that remotely interests me. But man oh man, was I ever surprised after listening to Thou’s EP titled Rhea Sylvia. Perhaps the shorter dose of this is what makes it easily digestible, and being in the right mood definitely helps it out. But this is actually pleasant and a little bit soothing at times.

You can get a bit of a blackened feel just from the vocals alone and how grainy the overall output is. But seeing that this is based around drawn-out riffs that make Pentagram look like speed metal, it’s pretty far removed. The longest track “Unfortunate Times” grabs you by the ear and fills your head with proverbial sand, feeling like you’re stuck in a super dry trip. “Restless River” is also stacked a mile high in layers and achieves exactly this in a shorter amount of time. You can pick up cleaner licks underneath the thick atmosphere.

Amazingly, clean vocals come in on “Deepest Sun,” which is where most of the soothing aspects are buried. But even beyond that, the bassy presence and calm flow of everything gives a settled feeling. Not sure if Thou were aiming for that, but it happened regardless. Obviously, there isn’t gonna be much in the realm of variation, so it’s hard to pick out other standout moments besides “Deepest Sun.” So I recommend hearing it as a whole.

If Rhea Sylvia were any longer (as I’m sure the full-lengths are), I probably wouldn’t be able to stick around the whole time. You also need to be in the right setting and not aiming your focus on other things, since this will tug at your attention. But as someone who usually dislikes anything drone-related, I recommend giving it a spin. Perhaps this is a good gateway release for the style.

Originally written for Indy Metal Vault

I Feel the Pain of a Lasting War - 85%

Thumbman, December 18th, 2018

2018 is a good year to be a Thou fan. They dropped three different EPs over the course of the summer and then for good measure threw in the best sludge metal album of the year. One might think such a prolific output in such a short time would ultimately mean the EPs were littered with outtakes and b-rate material, but Thou astonishingly maintains quality throughout all of them. Rhea Sylvia is a dreary and atmospheric EP. While it doesn’t bludgeon to the same degree as their new album Magus, it’s great at what it does.

Thou has talked about this being their Alice in Chains EP and I sort of see it. While most songs don’t actually sound all that much like Alice in Chains, a lot of it does have that bummed out rainy day vibe to it. Most of the EP is ultimately really gloomy atmospheric sludge. There’s some subtle post-rock influence and subdued psychedelic influences in the mix that help give the softer parts some character. The riffs are drawn out and cathartic. There’s some really awesome deep clean vocals in “The Only Law”, but the harsh vocals are definitely what really help set these apart from the next atmo sludge band. They have just as much to do with black metal as sludge, being a slow tortured rasp where you can hear the pain of existence in every syllable.

“Deepest Sun” is by far the standout song of the record and is where the Alice and Chains references are really warranted. It totally sounds like the more metal-leaning bands associated with the grunge explosion, with Soundgarden also coming to mine. The vocal performance is excellently executed and falls somewhere between the two aforementioned bands. It’s really cool how they can take on a rock song and wipe the floor with most actual rock bands. I also love how they take a song that you could totally sneak on an alternative rock station and add a harsh vocal section and somehow have that feel totally natural. Reminds me of “Venus Blue” by Acid Bath in that respect.

The Crowbar cover is the other song that diverges from the pack here. As far as I’m concerned “The Lasting Dose” is the best traditional sludge song and Sonic Excess in its Purest Form is the best traditional sludge album. A sludge band isn’t going to be able to come in and out-Crowbar Crowbar here, but that doesn’t mean a cover isn’t worth trying. Primitive Man covered “Suffering Brings Wisdom” and it turned out great. “The Lasting Dose” aches with bittersweet melody and is such a perfect lament for the struggles of everyday existence. Thou slows it down even further and aided by a great vocal performance, the emotional impact is still there.

Rhea Sylvia is largely songs Matt has written for acoustic guitar fleshed out by Thou, and this really shows in the song writing. The songs feel surprisingly anchored for atmospheric sludge. With the wildcard of the Alice in Chains type song and a Crowbar cover to boot, Magus certainly isn’t the only Thou release worth hearing from 2018.