Label: Peasant Magik
Release Type: 3 cassettes lmt. 300
My excitement aside, this release offers a handful for collectors, enthusiasts, and even the casual listener. Packaged inside a small jet black box (roughly 4x4x4in.) you get three cassettes, each with a thick plastic like paper covered with beautiful grey/black artwork, a pin, a sticker, a patch, a vial of pine needles/cones, a small booklet with lyrics and pictures all on a bed of moss; quite the package, no?
The music contained in this beautiful little package is all of Thou's work from 2007-2008, not including their first two demos. You get two full lengths (Tyrant & Peasant), The Retaliation of the Immutable Force of Nature EP, To Carry a Stone EP ,We Pass Like Night, From Land to Land(split with Leech), Thrive & Decay (split with Black September), and Malfeasance-Retribution EP. There's a lot to take in, but it's all excellent. You can really appreciate a band when they don't have a single bad song.
Having heard most of this stuff on vinyl/mp3 I can say it sounds excellent here. I heard the Peasant album in my friend's car in mp3 format and we both commented how overproduced and weak it sounded, not here; the tape sounds excellent and carries that filthy heavy sludge sound that's damn near perfect.
So as far as the music's concerned I'll break it down by singular release.
Being the first release I heard by Thou I was an instant fan. Songs like "Tyrant" and "Fucking Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean" are stellar highlights (listen to that buildup around 6minutes in "Tyrant" holy hell that's awesome). With the previously mentioned songs we see vibrant sludge mixed with beautiful post metal sections (soaring guitars, build ups, huge sound). The more Eyehategod like sections are excellent mid-paced crashes of heavy riffs and monstrous drums all accompanied by venomously powerful vocals. In terms of the vocals, they sound much more like black metal vocals than anything else, yet they're still decipherable. Thou excel at what they do because they seemingly manage to mix that ugly, filthy, drug ridden vibe that we associate with sludge and mix it with the celestial sound that comes to mind with bands like Pelican and Caspian. Easily one of the best sludge releases I've ever heard.
Thrive & Decay
An excellent release in it's own right, as Black September plays an awesome brand of death metal akin to older Bolt Thrower, but here it's just Thou (as with the other split material included). The song from this release has a great movie clip at the beginning and the song carries out in a similar violent manner. Much more like Eyehategod (I hate to keep comparing, but it's true). Awesome song title as well, "Smoke Pigs."
We Pass Like Night, From Land to Land
Four Songs here, previously from the split with Leech. Things start softly with a calming acoustic intro which leads to the spacey and serene "Here I Stand, Head In Hand" which explodes into a brilliant cascade of emotive force, embodying itself in thick walls of distortion ravenous vocals and seeping bass. A much more atmospheric a offering from Thou. Much like the first track, "The Defeatist's Lament" ends with waves of distortion and clean guitars, as well as those ethereal female vocals present on "Here I Stand..." A very "whole" feeling ep, more like a mini album.
The two songs from the ep are phenomenal as we'd expect. Here they're sandwiched in between the Black September split and the Leech split. You gotta love the song titles, "The Severed Genitals of Every Rapist Hang Bleeding From These Trees" (although on the actual ep it's "bleeding genitals..." I don't know if this is a typo on Peasant Magik's part or not). Powerful and driving, both songs are full of rich textures and drift from pounding sludge, to rhythmic changes, to harrowing atmospheric passages. A bit more sludgy, but brilliant nonetheless.
To Carry a Stone
More of the same; first "They Stretch Out Their Hands" carries on a midpaced sludge affair until it breaks down to a harrowing slow section which it never seems to dig itself out of. "The Road of Many Names" begins with the ominous feedback we're all used to and dives in with a super thick and artillery heavy riff. The little haunting clean riff around the end really works well and is quite creepy. All in all I'd have to say this is thou's weakest work, but that's like saying "The Return" isn't as good "Under the Sign;" we're all winners.
"The Work Ethic Myth" kicks things off perfectly, as it's one of the best tracks on the album and depicts Thou's sound perfectly. Peasant, an album which I'm not as well versed with as Tyrant, is still magnificent but doesn't hold the same place that Tyrant does for me. Sections like 5:10 into "Belt Of fire To Guide Me Cloak Of Night To Hide Me" and the first real riff of "Burning Black Coals And Dark Memories" are great and make up the weight of quality for this album. Not as strong as Tyrant, but remarkable nonetheless.
The Retaliation of the Immutable Force of Nature
Two songs again here. "What Blood Still Runs Through These Veins" crawls at a snail's pace yet carries a hippo's weight. The sound is giagantic and the guitars are as thicker than any football linebacker you can think of. They achieve a huge sound here and juxtapose the sludgy thickness with beautiful leads and powerful riffs. The track peters out to distortion and leads way to "Acceptance" which is one of my favorite songs. It's a post metal instrumental done better than any post metal band. The beautiful guitars weave back and forth in between lapses of reverb and accompanying drums. It all builds to a monumental crescendo with some of the most enthralling guitarwork I've ever heard around the six minute mark which luckily continues until around ten minutes. The progression and delivery is simply breath taking and proves that Thou are an exceptional band.
Beyond the excellent music, Thou create wonderful lyrics and have an absolutely magnificent image in their artwork and merchandise. Little epigraphs here and there on various releases depict a well read and versed band, as well as establish the morose atmosphere of the band. With all the releases I own of the band, each one was well worth the money as they all come with something special and have great artwork, Kingdoms is no different. The quote on the first page of the booklet,
"She used the ancient, long-forgotten "thou"- the "thou" of the master to the slave. It entered into me slowly, sharply. Yes, I was a slave, and this, too, was necessary, was good."
Taken from Yevgeny Zamyatin's book We is a powerful epigraph to this impressive body of work. The boxset is only $20 and well worth it; I'm a very happy camper with this one. Go to Thou's webpage and you can listen to every song of theirs i think.