AlbumsMay 24, 20243,621 views

Thou Umbilical


Umbilical
1. Narcissist's Prayer 2. Emotional Terrorist 3. Lonely Vigil 4. House of Ideas 5. I Feel Nothing When You Cry 6. Unbidden Guest 7. I Return as Chained and Bound to You 8. The Promise 9. Panic Stricken, I Flee 10. Siege Perilous
2024 Sacred Bones Records
Our score 7

5/28/2024

What do you, as a band, do when you spend the last six years putting out awesome covers of classic songs and collaborating with other artists to create some of the most compelling music of that given year? For Thou, the answer was simple: be themselves again.

 

 

The Baton Rouge melodic sludgers are closing in on two decades of caustic heaviness with dozens of releases when you factor in all the EPs, splits, collaborations, compilations, and LPs of original content. You could swim in their Bandcamp catalog alone - you could also drown in it. They’re the fucking Griselda Records of sludge/doom metal except instead of a handful of grimy rappers, it’s just one group of dudes with a serious bone to pick with… everything.

 

Really, it’s easy to see why Thou has so much time and energy for this - the world is a bleak place and so it fuels their dense, unruly lurch of swamp guitars, clashing drums, and disturbed goblin vocals. Umbilical is their 542th project give or take and it finds them wielding more clarity than before. The singles will tell you that for free - “Unbidden Guest” is implosive and light on its feet for sludge metal, walking on the thick muds that other songs drudge through with an unhinged glee. The other single, the affirming “I Feel Nothing When You Cry”, has similar energy to the point that you’d be forgiven for thinking Thou picked up the pace with their music on this album. Almost every other song is the antithesis to that.

 

 

If you want the GOO, they got the GOO. “I Return as Chained and Bound to You” is a wonderfully slow clamor with a neat melody to ensure you’re nodding your head hard. It’s one of the longest songs on the album and presents itself as such, sinking you down into its depths over time and relishing the experience with a serial killer’s smile. Back at the top of the album, “Narcissist’s Prayer” is highly adept at tuning the chaos with shrill screams and some large-ass drumming to set the tone. The different production values from 2018’s album Magus (their last original LP) or, my fave, Rhea Sylvia (their last original EP) is keenly felt, and enjoyed personally. I get some will miss the more cavernous grit on the mix from their earlier work, but that sensation is captured on Umbilical in other ways.

 

One thing that’s inescapable with Umbilical is comparing it to recent output, namely the gorgeous Emma Ruth Rundle collab album May Our Chambers Be Full and the somehow more downtrodden Myopia with Mizmor. It may be unfair to set them against this album, but the richness and dynamics of those collabs means that, by nature, Umbilical comes up a bit short. It’s not that Thou aren’t good enough on their own anymore - after all, I became a fan by them being themselves above all - but it’s an unassailable fact that this is, compositionally, a step back.

 

 

Still, Umbilical, in the greater picture, is a profoundly strong piece in Thou’s discography. It beats you down, but lifts you up by the sheer virtue of making you acutely aware that you’re not alone in the turmoil. Thou is weirdly friend-shaped, even if the hand reaching out to comfort you is a bit gangrenous and putrid. There’s great value in that, and ultimately it is nice to see them return to a simpler way of being and doing their own original work as much as I enjoyed their collabs and covers (their rendition of Alice In Chains’ “No Excuses” is a prime example).

 

Bottom Line: Umbilical is a righteous, provocative return to form that really tussles in the muck of life. The perceived drop in overall quality is merely circumstantial - still unavoidably tangible, but Thou themselves have not waned or been defeated by anything they battle. This album is proof that the throes and wallowing of existence can extend far longer than you’d want, but for us, that’s a win.

 


16 comments

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anonymous 24 days ago

Zulu defeats another band with diversity, equity and inclusion. #blackpower

Zortslob 24 days ago

Sounds gay

anonymous 24 days ago

Zortslob definitely knows when things sound gay, seeing as he heard his dad gobble on my nuts last night.

anonymous 24 days ago

Pallbearer's emo album with guest kazoo spot by Jordan Saint James gets a 10? But Thou playing actual sludge/doom gets a 7 because it isn't pretty? Is this Lambgoat?

anonymous 23 days ago

^ no these reviewers are just trash and have no place here. if Thou gets a 7 for this record, Eliot and co. should go back to the past 20 reviews and give everything else a 2. lunacy.

anonymous 23 days ago

f*ck Eliot.

anonymous 23 days ago

Yes, f*ck Eliot

anonymous 22 days ago

Can we get a f*ck Eliot lambgoat furnace fest t this year?

anonymous 22 days ago

This review is just conflicted and embarassing.

anonymous 22 days ago

They bring the goo all right

anonymous 21 days ago

542th.

anonymous 20 days ago

My whole polycule loves this one

anonymous 19 days ago

I'd rate this one higher than you did, but a nice review nonetheless.

anonymous 17 days ago

How the christ is this a 7 but that Pallbearer pile of puke a 10?

anonymous 15 days ago

Pallbearer's off-key Roger Waters croon croaking+two chugs and a sax solo gets a 10 but what seems to be shaping up to be ALBUM OF THE YEAR everywhere else gets a 7. Makes sense.

anonymous 12 days ago

No Eliot no care.