Thou
To the Chaos Wizard Youth EP

“Into the dark night of the soul: emotional balance restored”

This first line lead singer Bryan Funck screams in “The Unnamed Path” exemplifies one of Thou’s main goals: to dwell in and utilize the power of suffocating sounds and emotions to come away feeling hopeful and empowered. For 24 minutes, Thou’s brand of sludge/drone/doom barely lets go; apparently To the Chaos Wizard Youth’s outright bludgeoning is meant to be a counterpart to 2010’s Summit’s experimentation and an outlet for new drummer Josh Nee to impress and win over hesitant fans (for said fans hear the last 1:44 of third track, “Helen Will Have Her Revenge on New Orleans”). Additionally, this EP demonstrates something the band perfected with “Another World is Inevitable” off last year’s said full length, Summit, which is, oddly enough, subtlety.

Now, hold on. No one in their right mind would describe Thou’s music as sounding subtle. In fact, …Chaos Wizard sees the Baton Rouge, LA band as forceful, direct and unhinged as ever, losing much of the post-rock tendencies found on early full-lengths Peasant and Tyrant and focusing on what might seem like bluntness and ferocity. One complaint, which might be a common response to the way Thou currently structures their songs, is that this new format is boring, that nothing changes. The same riff is repeating itself. Take a closer listen and you’ll notice that the tempos shift in much more subtle ways than before, as riffs lumber over and over they speed up and slow down, often aligning themselves with a tonal shift in the lyrics. When changes do ensue they feel more momentous than before, more earned.

For example, “The Unnamed Path” builds with guitars wailing, cymbals kissing and crashing all the while the drums take slow steps, carrying the song towards its righteous and unholy dirge. When they finally enter, Bryan’s vocals are as ghastly, vicious, vulnerable and impassioned as ever, spitting lyrics that announce triumph after triumph over political corruption, greed, indifference, and systemic violence against fellow human and earthly beings. Delivered this way, repeated and spat out over the top of such monstrous and crunchy riffs, I can’t help but feel that these triumphs are impending. Then, around the 5:40 mark we find a turn in the lyrical listing of triumphs to what I interpret as the grandest, a shift in consciousness toward “outward reflection.” Here the band cuts out, if only momentarily, as Bryan exclusively screams, announcing a diatribe from one voice to all others with as much force and conviction to possibly reach them all.

The three other songs on Chaos Wizard work in a similar fashion: build by repetition and subtle nuance until Bryan’s vocals have no choice but to boil over, bringing the rest of the band with him into ferocious but ultimately hopeful and uplifting territory. Thou inspires the type of productive anger manifested not by “the violent impotence of the masculine savage” but towards the restoration of “the unity of synchronicity,” which is both refreshing and inspiring in a community unwilling to reflect on the power and violence it so often inspires or is inspired by.

Though some fans might miss the older, post-rock tendencies, which allowed songs room to breathe in between the sludge, I welcome the newer, more suffocating approach. With this, Thou more successfully convinces its listeners that the collapse of much of the status quo just might be more beautiful (albeit terrifying too) than the destruction of our creative abilities to see outside it. The lyrics from “Helen…” most redolent of this welcomed collapse read, “Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets,” reminding us of the creative duality of storms to both destroy and reanimate. For some this may evoke apocalyptic thoughts, somehow suggesting that the “world’s” survival requires human beings to voluntarily self-extinct, but Thou don’t seem all that invested in giving up on the capacity to radically adjust to what the world asks of us.

 

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Michael Zinkowski
April 12th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: blighty

    A Thou fan here. Good review, I like the idea of Thou in brutal and direct mode. Will definitely look this up. and the line “Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets” is a quote from the movie Taxi Driver.


  2. Commented by: Michael Zinkowski

    blighty–thanks for the kind words and also for pointing out that the quote’s from taxi driver. you’d be amazed all the good movies i’ve yet to see in my lifetime…


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