Album of the Day: Thou, “Magus”

When the Magician card turns up in a Tarot reading, it’s often a sign that the querent needs to tap into their full potentialno more holding back. With that occult imagery in mind, it makes perfect sense why metal titans Thou would call their fifth studio album Magus: on each of the album’s 11 songs, they unleash everything they have.

On 2014’s Heathen, the band’s last full-length, Thou employed their bracing mix of sludge, grunge, and doom metal to create a brutally powerful pagan record—an album concerned with materiality and the physical worldMagus is Heathen’s thematic flipsidethe triumph of spirit over flesh.

Anchored by Bryan Funck’s lung-shredding howls and the band’s pummeling, Richter-scale riffs, Magus is an album about transcendence. “Leave behind this useless flesh husk,” Funck screams on “Inward.” These are songs about escape, about violently wriggling out of the constraints imposed on you by your perceptions, your gender, your ideologies, and the expectations of others.

Earlier this summer, Thou demonstrated their stylistic range across a trilogy of EPs that focused on different aspects of their sound. Traces of those EPs can be heard on Magus: the clean vocals and sad, otherworldly beauty of Inconsolable can be in heard in the angelic voices singing on “Divine Will;” the punishing noise of The House Primordial pulses through the shuddering guitars and hard beats on “In the Kingdom of Meaning” and “The Changeling Prince;” and Rhea Sylvia’s love of Alice in Chains-style grunge comes through in the chugging dynamics of “Transcending Dualities.”

Interspersing shorter atmospheric tunes in between the longer tracks, Magus’s hour-plus runtime runs fast and heavy. And while the album is obsessed with matters of spirit, it packs plenty of muscle in its tunes. It is an album of ambition, stylistic diversity, and sheer righteous power.

-Ashley Naftule

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