The Agit Reader

Grind! Sludge! Doom!
All the Good Things!

July 14th, 2017  |  by Brian O'Neill

Thou

Thou/False/Moloch/Cloud Rat/Black Urn
The Foundry, Philadelphia, June 27

The Foundry is a smaller room upstairs from The Fillmore, part of a corporate complex of Live Nation venues including a comedy club. This tour stop just happened to be on the same night Megadeth was playing downstairs, and listening to someone in the shared lobby try to explain to an inquisitive Megadeth fan what Thou sound like made waiting in line a far more enriching experience than usual.

What openers Black Urn lacked in seasoning and stage presence was more than made up for with youthful enthusiasm. The perfect local support act for this four-band tour proffered powerful grinding sludge that borrowed from the same influences as the rest of the touring package and likely the bands themselves.

Cloud Rat is probably the best grind band around at this point in time and their set, way too early in the night due to rotating lineups, gave ample evidence to this claim. The Michigan trio doesn’t employ a bassist, which accentuates the coarse, trebly yet sublimely complex noise guitarist Rorik Brooks violently wrings from his six strings and drummer Brandon Hill’s blastbeats. But singer Madison Marshall steals the show. She seems shy, not making eye contact with the crowd and leaving between-song banter to Brooks, but as soon as the song starts she becomes a screaming blue-haired messiah. She is not preachy from the stage, but even if you are unfamiliar with her impassioned pro-women and pro–animal rights views, you don’t need to decipher the lyrics to see that Cloud Rat is the only grind that matters.

Like Cloud Rat, Moloch prefers collaborative split releases to full-length albums. They even did one together earlier this year (Cloud Rat performed their lead track “Sueno” live for the first time tonight), though all similarities between the bands end there. As frantic yet minimalist as the predecessors were, the foursome was as dense as concrete and poured just as slowly. The contrast made the band sound even heavier, though the Nottingham group didn’t really need an assist in that department. The riffs lurch like an old hearse coming to life after decades in storage, slow but with a menacing, deadly purpose, enveloped with a dissonance that owes as much to Swans as it does the usual metallic suspects. The slower it got, the better it got—and it got mighty damn slow!

False look like hippie bikers with headbands and shrubby facial hair, and include a bespectacled keyboardist and a frontwoman who could pass for a Woodstock attendee. Don’t be fooled, though, the group plays a particularly virulent strain of black metal. Coming from midwestern Minneapolis, False grew up in a small scene where all fans of extreme music coalesced so the crust punks likely thought they were the ones being serenaded. But even with that uniqueness readily apparent, you can hear a reverent spirit in the atmospheric waves of synth and percussive wall of distorted guitar. It would make even sticklers for authenticity concede that the snow in Minnesota is no less white and cold than in Scandinavia.

Speaking of being a product of their environment, Thou (pictured top) couldn’t come from anywhere but Louisiana. There must be sludge at the bottom of those swamps, and if you fight off enough gators to bottle the stuff, the languid liquid would likely kill anyone who drank it without a lifetime to gain immunity—witness Crowbar, the sainted Eyehategod, and Phil Anselmo.

What differentiates Thou from its NOLA brethren is a prominent punk-rock attitude, making the band extreme metal’s answer to Flipper. It informed the sarcastic jabs at Megadeth taken by singer Bryan Funck, but more importantly it encrusts the band’s doom-laden tunes and leaves you unable to breathe, it’s so suffocating. This tour is not presented by Metal Sucks or some beverage company or car manufacturer, and Lord knows no commercial radio station will sponsor it when it hits your town. It doesn’t have a catchy name. Yet when all is said and done Thou, False, Moloch and Cloud Rat might very well be the tour that defines this era of extreme music for years to come.

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