Thou has never been a band known for artistic restraint. They’ve produced a large number of releases that have come in all forms, from proper full length records to singles eventually collected into larger releases to EPs to splits with other bands. Through the whole process of the unique metal band’s existence, they’ve charted a unique path for themselves artistically, and with a series of releases out in 2018 from the band, they’re going even further than before. When it comes to the writing process itself, it’s as if they’ve got nothing holding them back.
The House Primordial EP
The first 2018 Thou release is a drone metal EP called The House Primordial. Exploring drone metal is something the group’s been interested in for awhile, according to vocalist Bryan Funck. The present release came together after the group was called upon to provide a live soundtrack for a showing of the silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at a museum in the area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Their work for that endeavor provided the “skeleton” for their work on THP, Funck explains.
“I think as a band we were really interested in sort of seeing what we could do with it. Now I think that The House Primordial is like the first baby step into that experimenting with doing something that’s straight ahead drone,” Funck explains.
Drone metal certainly challenges conventional musical sensibilities, something that Funck is conscious of, although posing that challenge is not the focus of what he’s doing.
Still, he explains: “If it’s the right person with the right amount of creativity and the right ear for it, I think you can kind of take anything and mangle it into something that will push the art forward — drone, jazz, whatever.”
Magus, Rhea Sylvia, and Inconsolable
THP was surprise dropped via Robotic Empire, and it lingered out there for about a month before three more releases for the year were unveiled. Those releases are Inconsolable, an acoustic style EP out June 1 also via Robotic Empire, Rhea Sylvia, which is a bit heavier and is out July 27 on Deathwish, and a full-length record Magus, out August 31 on Sacred Bones.
Magus is the band’s first full-length record since 2014’s Heathen, and thematically, Funck intends for the record to be a “rebuttal” of sorts to the acclaimed 2014 release.
“[Magus is] more or less supposed to be a rebuttal to Heathen,” he says. “Where Heathen was focused on the sensual nature of a person, Magus is more the introspection, the esoteric, the theories and more philosophy oriented idealism over a kind of blind action.”
The 2010 full length release from the band Summit is meant as a component of this same depiction of the world. That record, according to Funck, is supposed to represent “the kind of people that could radically change the world for the better” thanks to keeping themselves apart from molds, while Heathen represents the “feelers” and Magus represents the “thinkers” — all of whom, of course, do have an important role.
With Magus and other releases, 2018’s summer is great for Thou fans. Even among four releases in one year, though, The House Primordial sticks out.
It’s brutal yet not in a savage way. Instead, in a process that fans of drone metal might be familiar with, the release gradually pulls you closer and closer until — going on with the idea of it reflecting an actual circumstance — you’re trapped in the middle of an unfamiliar environment and petrified.
Fans taking away that feeling from the release is a somewhat intentional byproduct, Funck explains.
“Magus, I think, as we were writing it, we were trying to get a more menacing, brooding, real dark sound or feeling to it that maybe isn’t quite as prominent as we had talked about — and then when these songs [for THP] started coming together, it had more of that tone.”
Four Releases Working Together
Helping along the aim of having The House Primordial — and the other 2018 Thou releases — stick out individually is the organization of the release dates themselves, Funck says. Whereas in the past, shorter releases may have gotten lost under the weight of full-lengths from Thou, this time, the EPs are all coming first in an effort to get people to sit with them and appreciate them alongside Magus.
Artistically speaking, the four 2018 releases from Thou certainly present a lot to take in, and yet even still, there’s a unity of purpose. It’s the same group that fans of alternative (really) heavy music have become familiar with in the past taking their inspiration to new ends, not a new group or one of the heavy groups out there abandoning their roots for something else.
As an example of this facet to Thou’s work, fans of the band are no doubt familiar with the inclusion of sociopolitical themes. However, you’d be hard pressed to find an explicit representation of any such themes on The House Primordial, but that’s because Funck wanted something that would serve the drone metal as well as possible, not because he’s abandoned the original ideals.
Whereas other 2018 releases might be a “bit more what you would expect from Thou,” Funck explains, on The House Primordial, “in the same sense that the riffs would be kind of repeating and building, I wanted to do the same thing with the lyrics.”
He continues: “I wanted to pare it down a bit. We’ve done songs where we’ve done the eight minute guitar drone track, so with this, I think we were looking for something where it was just the meat and as lean as it could be — just the hook, what I was telling them when we were writing it is that I wanted it to be just the one good guitar hook that we could play until we were sick of playing it, and I would have a bit or a couple bits that I would sing over it, and sing it until I was sick of singing it.”
“I think I’m getting to a place where I like having verses and choruses — which I think is kind of a departure for us,” he explains overall. “In the past, I would write a thing for as long as I wanted to write it and I would try to fit as much of that into a song as I could. Now, I’m writing refrains and I’m writing verses that are playing off each other a bit more.”
Social & Political Considerations
When it comes to what Funck is actually writing about, he remains fond, as he puts it, of dressing up the themes he covers — although even on that point he’s open to shifting on a potential future Thou release and becoming even more explicitly sociopolitical.
To be clear, though, that’s just an idea from Funck, and it could get pared away ahead of anything new still to be written in the future.
In the meantime, though, he explains that he’s not overwhelmed with inspiration in that regard because of the 2018 American and global political climates. Instead, he says, the inspiration has always been there for him thanks to something more lasting than the shifting national political tides.
He explains: “I think a lot of people who are fired up right now haven’t been paying attention. Stuff that’s going on right now in the world, especially in America, isn’t much different than stuff that’s been going on for a long long time. It’s just it’s a little bit more brazen, it’s a little bit more naked — that stuff isn’t really what’s motivating me. It’s more my personal interactions with people or issues I’m seeing with people I know or people in my community — that’s what motivates me to write some of this stuff. That’s the stuff I’m writing about, that’s the stuff I’m looking at, that’s what I’m taking inspiration from, not so much what’s going on in the news. I follow the news and stuff, but I’ve followed the news and all that stuff for years and years and years. It’s more like a soap opera these days than anything.”
To many out there, Funck is certainly not off point — just turn on cable news.
Thou Going Forward
As for where the band is going from their 2018 releases on a practical level, Funck explains that he’s at the same time fond of touring and committed to the writing process, although as of late May 2018, the band was more focused on more material they’ve already made getting out to the masses than they were on anything new.
Funck enjoys going places he hasn’t been yet with Thou when touring. Although as of spring 2018, they’re just ideas, he’d like to go to places in Europe like Spain, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe instead of sticking to the familiar Central European circuit.
Future tours will likely further establish the band’s inclination for going out with acts that might not be strictly “metal,” Funck explains.
In the meantime, Funck comments: “I’m really grateful that I’ve been able to travel as much as I have with this band. There are definitely places I’ve been to that I’d probably never have gone to in my life if I hadn’t been in a band that goes on tour. I think there are a lot of places that we’re still going to go to that if I wasn’t in this band I would probably never get a chance to go to, so I definitely appreciate that. I’m glad people like us enough to where we can go out on tour and make it work.”
Ahead of seeing them on tour, there are plenty of releases to support the band with to keep them going — listen to the first released single from Magus, called “The Changeling Prince,” below.
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