Album Review: THOU Magus
It's certainly been one hell of a summer for Thou. The heaviest grunge band on the planet broke a rather long recording silence starting in May. Over the course of three months, they released a trio of EPs in the buildup to their newest full-length album, Magus. Each of the EPs—The House Primordial, Inconsolable, and Rhea Sylvia—wonderfully broke down and fleshed out particular aspects of Magus as a whole. Still, these primers—as great as they are on their own—do not fully cover how immense and grand the scope of Magus truly is.
Thou's first full-length effort since 2014's Heathen picks up from where the Lousiana group left off. Their new album is a sprawling 75 minutes of slow, lurching doom and sludge that mixes in swaths of grunge rock, drone, and even black metal. However, it seems in their time between albums, Thou trimmed away the fat. Even at the same length as Heathen, Magus is direct—incisive—in its social commentary and unconventional arrangements.
Their seamless fusion of social narration and their unique sound is perhaps the greatest aspect of Thou; Magus is no different. Across the album's 11 tracks, Bryan Funck delivers scathing critiques of toxic masculinity, misogyny, idolatry, and much more. This is, of course, set to an uncompromising tide of sludge and doom rooted in punk and grunge. Mitch Wells (bass), Andy Gibbs (guitar), and Matt Thudium (guitar) have anchored Thou since its inception in 2005. Funck joined in 2007, and since then the Baton Rouge force developed a feverish following in metal's underground with their formula.
Yet, Magus' arrival through Sacred Bones Records—and the three EPs coming by way of Deathwish, Community Records, and Robotic Empire—sees a possibility for Thou's reign to expand into new audiences. While it is long, their new record makes a for a wonderful introduction for the uninitiated. The lead single, "The Changeling Prince," or even the opener, "Inward," encapsulates many facets of Thou's music. Whether it's the former's sludge-laden groove or the latter's glacial trudge, they are important tenets of Thou's sound.
Hearing the slivers of the previous EPs in Magus is another riveting aspect of the album as a whole. Emily McWilliams—who appeared on multiple tracks on Inconsolable—returns on "Divine Will" to deliver an ethereal vocal performance. Elsewhere, "Invocation of Disgust" highlights the Alice in Chains grunge from Rhea Sylvia. The first EP, The House Primordial, featured a heavy emphasis on feedback-driven drone. On "The Law Which Compels," that same focus emerges again. These common threads between EPs and Magus only further signify the genius and hard work of Thou.
There are other subtle nuances on Magus that make it so grandiose as well. Take the black metal riffing in "My Brother Caliban" as it transitions into the introduction of "Transcending Dualities"—another brilliant example of Gibbs and Thudium's guitar work. On "Sovereign Self," it's an entrancing low-end from Wells and drummer, Josh Nee, that seemingly builds on itself through much of the track's 10-plus minute runtime before dissolving into intricate guitar chords.
Overall, these are pieces of a sensational whole. The intricacies and critiques of Magus and how they are executed are simply unparalleled in 2018. Considering the prior EPs and everything they have done over the last 13 or so years, this so-called "Summer of Thou" comes to a close with arguably the band's finest output to date.
Thou has undoubtedly been one of the most prolific metal bands over the last decade or so. Still, even given how illustrious their previous efforts are, they managed to reach beyond what seemed possible for Magus. Through continual refining and an unparalleled work rate, they are a model for how metal bands should conduct themselves. They've always been a band flirting with perfection and with their fifth full-length album, that is certainly no exception