With slow, chugging riffs, growling vocals and a penchant for large concept albums, Louisiana sludge metal band Thou have, by their very nature, always discouraged mainstream attention. However, lead singer Bryan Funck thinks Thou’s latest album, Heathen, is their most accessible to date. Granted, the songs are longer, slower and centered on the theme of nature and the physical world, with references to authors Thoreau, Kipling and Landstreicher.
However, “accessible” is a bit of a stretch, though the album does have catchier vocal melodies and an increasing range in dynamics. There are quiet, gentle interludes that slowly intensify into heavy, consuming metal riffs.
Thou are happy with their direction and aren’t vying for new fans. They have a modest online presence, and in fact don’t even have a Facebook page. (The one that exists is an unofficial fan page.)
“We’ve never been interested in beating people over the head with self-advertising or doing any phony networking—and we’ve gone out of our way to grind away the ego of the band. We barely even put our name on the records anymore,” Funck says. “We’ve tried to limit it to making our music available and letting people with some level of initiative find us.”
Heathen represents the latest in Thou’s desire to push the boundaries of doom metal. In a landscape of Sabbath wannabe bands, Thou instead toys with new ways to make heavy music, which include adding layers of sounds over the riffs, and riding the mood of the chords instead of focusing on the traditional staccato metal groove.
Funck doesn’t see Thou as a doom metal band, but more of a grunge band with punk roots. The members grew up listening to punk, hardcore, grunge and ’90s alternative rock. Given such influences, Thou maintain a modest image and tackle political issues like the dangers of technology and equal rights for all people—that is when they’re not writing concept albums.
“I would say that we have an aversion to tough-guy theatrics; ignorant and derisive, shock-value posturing; or exxxtreme, raging, party culture [of metal]—those things probably set us more apart than our personal taste in music,” Funck says.
The band wants to push things even further in the future. They’ve been talking about recording an all-quiet album (kind of like the mellow acoustic interludes on Heathen, but as the main songs), as well as a black metal album and a hardcore album.
“Other than the possible pretty/quiet record we might do down the line, I don’t think we’ll ever not be a heavy band or writing heavy music. We’re not looking to become some kind of spacey jam rock thing or whatever. We just want to explore other paths to heaviness that don’t solely rely on a crushing riff,” Funck says.
San Jose Rock Shop
April 20, 6:30pm, $5-$6