Genre: Sludge/Doom Metal
"I realize all the grim sternness of my own cold building with its wealth of breathing misery and my own desolate heart to endure it all.
But it is the curse of greatness that it must step over dead bodies to create new life.
And now there is change.
The serpent has turned its head to strike its master.
Those suffocating under dominion have broken their chains.
Wealth ground to dust.
Power laid to waste.
Grinding teeth in contempt, with black swords in hand, stepping over dead bodies, and creating new life."
I had to finally get this up here. I've been listening to it everyday for the past month. I've listened to it twice today. And yeah I know it's quite late to be raving about and posting this but who cares, the album is phenomenal and part of what Equivoke's about is getting both new or old but always fantastic records out there. So excuse the masturbatory rant-review I'm about the embark on.
If you don't know Thou by now than you've been missing out big time, especially if you're a doom fan. Tyrant is a tremendous effort especially for their first LP. It is 5 songs of venomous, malicious, oppressive doom that is practically unapproachable even from veterans of the genre.
It hinges on intelligent, socio-political and religiously charged lyrics spewed fourth in Bryan's truly despicable, harsh rasps and screams that would be completely comfortable on the darkest of black metal releases. This is in stark contrast with much of the doom or sludge genre which is usually encased in low, deep moans and growls. When I first heard Tyrant it was this aspect that I didn't quite like about their style but over time they grew on me immensely and now I cannot imagine the band sounding the same without them. This is one point of the record I could see a lot of people finding fault with, in fact it may be the only one.
When it comes to the riffs, drumming and structure Tyrant is all gold and very creative. Mitch's grumbling bass is mighty and does so much for the sound to keep it thick and crunchy, while Terry's drumming is potent and aggressive but very flexible, providing a more than sturdy foundation for what Mitch and Andy lay down on guitar. From the moment you enter this record on the title track you are greeted with a formidable growl, as low and slow as can be. And while this quality sticks throughout the record their are occasions where the tempo is cranked up a little, and manages to work just as well in those instances.
The quiet moments that you'll come across are so powerful: the title track displays this perfectly when both Matt and Andy go clean it turns into a sombre and melodic interlude as Bryan's only clean, soft section emerges. The atmosphere is thick. A healthy dose of delay saturates the riffs to great effect and things slowly build to a destructive climax of fuzzed out heaviness which is also where the tempo changes — giving you a taste of their faster side; the quality doesn't dip in the slightest.
It's very clear that all members here have unified on some spiritual level and can write like no others in the genre. It all flows so effortlessly. From lumbering gigantic dragging slabs to shimmering, quiet cleans, to aggressive sludgy slams and chugging — they keep it cohesive and passionate. They even make a brief excursion into a southern bluesy twang (influenced by their Baton Rouge heritage no doubt) at the end of "With a Cold, Life Extinguishing Elegance": while Bryan maintains his cold rasping, the guitars whine and bend sadly. It's very beautiful and shows how well the members can adapt different styles and make it feel natural.
Tyrant is an album I have a hard time deciding on a favorite track as it's all so catchy, ugly and pleasing. If I had to for the moment I would settle on "I Was Ignored. And Judged. And Cast Down." as it encompasses all that I love about Thou in one track. The opening section is packed with memorable riffing, heavy and ominous, but once the track slows that is where I am overwhelmed by the sheer force these guys conjure. It comes suddenly and with enough mass to make black hole seem pitiful, the screeching and scraping of the brakes being put on as the bass slides thickly is magnificent. It might be my favorite moment on the record actually. Terry's crashing symbol work here really keeps shit nice and bright. Once Matt punches in with the slow, delay-laden taping it becomes even more jaw-dropping, melancholic, intense.
From that point Andy comes in with a great reverbed solo and they slow it down again right before the conclusion. Bryan's vitriolic spitting as he roars about the oppressed masses rising to slay opulent rulers is brings the intensity to a new high, and the interplay between both Matt and Andy here is stunning: one finishing the others' riff low and high, the riffs soar. This is such a great moment, they work so well off of each other. Then they slam back down with some monstrous slides and chugging, to finish it with a slow feedback fade.
This version includes the two bonus tracks that later appeared on their The Retaliation of the Immutable Force of Nature EP, and usually bonus tracks on albums are nothing to get excited about. This being Thou though that is entirely not the case. Specifically "Acceptance" (an instrumental) which veers into an almost post-rock area and manages to destroy most of the bands in that genre with that one track alone. It still holds some semblance of doom underneath but without the oppressive negativity of the previous tracks — in fact it's very uplifting, atmospheric and beautiful. '
There are wonderful climaxes and valleys they wind through with grace in this song, tastefully using their effects to make them count. Once again Thou show their ability to change it up and make whatever they write sound powerful, meaningful and serious.
The other track is "What Blood Still Flows Through These Veins?" which is more in the vein of the rest of Tyrant. Nice and slow with some sick riffing, creeping and heavy as glaciers with a short moment where they leap from that; as well as a section where Bryan rattles off lyrics quickly with his grating bark (almost like spoken word), while both guitars drone alone behind him. It finishes with a generous helping of feedback and scraping, slow rhythmic toms, etc.
I could not recommend this record enough. I'm in love with it and all of Thou's efforts and would suggest anyone who has even a passing interest in the genre to listen to Tyrant. The vinyl version has been sold out for a long time (I was fortunate enough to find a copy a few years back at a local record store) but you can pick up a third repress of the cd over at Gilead Media or Robotic Empire. The boys have (as always) put this up for free on their official site too, and you can listen to it on Gilead Media's bandcamp.
Oh. And if you ever have a chance to see them live, don't waste your time hesitating. Go and bask in the unbelievable talent and heaviness they lay down.
DOWNLOAD (Noladiy) Official site