Another day, another sludge band returning from an extended absence. Rue is back from the depths for their sophomore release, Thorns, a schizophrenic slab of sonic catharsis. Pummeling sludge grooves are coated with a layer of Rust Belt decay and filtered through Midwest hardcore and old fashioned rock and roll. It’s a solid blend that peaks early and unfortunately stays a bit too long.

Placid acoustic opener “Thorns” gives way to the intense and aggressive “Brown”. Unhinged and wildly aggressive, vocalist Jeff Fahl careens between vocal tones, from brutal roars and screams, to growls and Dax Riggs-style croons. The riffs are of the hardcore/sludge variety. There’s a heavy stoner rock influence with lots of grooves, some breakdowns, occasional doomy passages and out-and-out rock. “Brown” is an excellently aggressive sludge knockout, “For Thousands of Years” has some galloping stoner rock riffs, and “Pressures” has a hearty dose of rock and roll sleaze. Clean vocals emerge during regular respites from the violence and lend balance and emotion to the chaos, particularly on “Sadaver”.

The album starts strong but becomes less distinct in the second half. Fahl’s vocal approach is tumultuous, and the constantly shifting the tones of his voice and alternating clean and harsh styles smother the riffs. After a few listens, I realized that the riff on second to last track was all I could recall of the latter portion of the album. The later tracks are decent enough, but at that point it’s just a little tiresome. It’s not overwhelmingly long, just over an hour, but it is more than twice as long as their previous full length.

Thorns is a solid sophomore album that’s just a little tedious. But the otherworldly aggression they exude and Fahl’s whirlwind vocal delivery that make this a worthy listen. Now let’s just hope it doesn’t take another 8 years to hear a follow-up.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chuck Kucher
December 12th, 2011


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