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Thou - Umbilical review

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Band: Thou
Album: Umbilical
Style: Doom metal, Sludge metal
Release date: May 2024

01. Narcissist's Prayer
02. Emotional Terrorist
03. Lonely Vigil
04. House Of Ideas
05. I Feel Nothing When You Cry
06. Unbidden Guest
07. I Return As Chained And Bound To You
08. The Promise
09. Panic Stricken, I Flee
10. Siege Perilous

It's easy to forget that Thou didn't build their name on collaborations and covers and general detours. Thou built their name on slabs of nasty sludge. In our defense it's been six years with a lot of detours since. Best not forget next time.

It's funny that I have reviewed Thou four times, but never was it an honest to God Thou album of Thou music. Two of them were collaborations with Emma Ruth Rundle, another a collaboration with Mizmor, and the only one that had Thou not collaborating with anyone was the Nirvana covers one. Granted, all of these were released since their last full length release, with them also releasing another covers compilation and a compilation of past splits material, but even Magus, the Thou album that is most recent, came right after the band kept teasing its release by dropping not one, not two, but three detours: a dronier one, a grungier one, and a more folky slowcore one. And even before that, my first contact with them was a collaboration with The Body. My personal experience with them is also quite weird, and also very Roadburn specific. I interviewed them there the first time I went, and from that time I remember their collab set with Emma Ruth Rundle more than their solo one. Then there was also the year where they played four surprise shows (including a Black Sabbath covers one that closed the festival) despite not appearing on the festival's lineup initially. I swear I'm getting somewhere with all this, but basically all of this is to say that there is definitely a slight feeling that Thou are at their most interesting when they're not doing just Thou.

Part of me also felt that when the news of Umbilical's then forthcoming hit. I knew I would've been more excited by the potential of Thou doing a detour, whether a genre switch-up or an unexpected collaboration. It's quite unfair to Thou, but also it is more a beast of their own creation by detouring this much and this well. The prospect of them doing their own thing again gets to suffer. But then again, it wasn't the detours that made Thou. Tyrant made Thou. Heathen made me a Thou fan. There are no detours without that established Thou sound. No bands taking their name from a Thou song without that established sound. And that's also a sound that clearly evolved. I would not mistake a song from Umbilical with one from Tyrant, and it's not just the production quality.

One thing to instantly notice is that the longest song here is still under 7 minutes, and while these songs are not really short, they clearly present a Thou that is more streamlined and direct, and that's something that is quite apparent in the music as well. Less overtly doomy and grandiose (but not to negation), and with the nastiness in the sludge taking a bit more from both grunge and hardcore punk than doom metal. It's fun pinpointing similar sounds, especially when Thou covered a lot of their influences, but they've never felt this overt in nodding to hardcore, with the gnarliest breakdowns and the most moshable riffs I remember Thou doing. Its slower moments feel downright gothic, whether that overlaying guitar melody in "House Of Ideas"' outro or the hypnotic interlude in "I Return As Chained And Bound To You", and multiple similar moments where the guitars create a sense of atmosphere that feels unique to this album. The faster songs like "The Promise" and "Emotional Terrorist" sound like a 90s alt rock song being passed through a hardcore punk filter being passed through a sludge filter, with their gnarliness being betrayed by how catchy and melodic the vocals are during the chorus without losing any of that glass shards-like scathing quality. I'd be remiss not to mention how much songs like "Unbidden Guest" also have some of the wildest drumming you'll hear in sludge, with the percussion in that song's outro being extra thunderous.

You know, in some way, maybe Umbilical is a detour. Maybe less of a detour and more of a natural sound evolution. Even if their sound has deviated more in similar directions on albums like Rhea Sylvia, it's much much more than just another Thou album.

Written on 08.06.2024 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 9 users
Today - 09:43
The Ancient One
Based on this added them to my "\m/ to check out - 2024" playlist. Randomized order, while focusing on other stop they've come up twice. I know because I stopped what I was doing to check it out and stored that info in my brain space. Will give it a thorough through and through listen when time and location permit.
get the fuck off my lawn.

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