On Saturday, one of metal’s most heralded bands will play Upstate Concert Hall. Thou, perhaps the most influential band in the genre today, will roll into town fresh off a matinee show in Providence, Rhode Island and ready to introduce themselves to the Capital Region’s metal faithful. The only problem? You’re going to have to convince Thou that they’re metal ‘cause it’s a label they aren’t particularly fond of.
“We’ve always maintained we are more of a heavy grunge band than we are a metal band,” said Josh Nee, drummer for the Baton Rouge outfit. “We do at times go to great lengths to alienate metalheads and to distance ourselves. As a whole, the five of us relate very little to the genre at all.” Thou has covered a host of grunge tunes–appearing on three Nirvana tributes produced by the underground Robotic Empire record label and covering Soundgarden’s “4th of July” for Hell Comes Home.
Thou have also collaborated with bands like The Body and released a host of split EPs with a host of bands.
Their grunge covers are appropriate in that Thou reliably capture the raw recording style, sludgy riffs and contemplative style of the genre’s best bands but when covering them, their metal attributes also shine through. Lead singer Bryan Funck has a classic black metal hissed vocal delivery. Nee’s drumming sounds like an iron works, bassist Mitch Wells delivers bass lines like Geddy Lee, and the band’s guitarists Andy Gibbs and Matthew Thudium intertwine their rhythm and leads like the best prog bands while bathing their licks in dissonance and cascading harmonies.
It is hard to deny that the band, at its foundation, sports some of metal’s best attributes–there is a sense of primality delivered by all members of the band that is akin to Louisiana’s Eyehategod and Acid Bath. But there is another element–an intellectualism, concern for social issues, politics, civil rights–that those bands never touched.
“Our guitar players grew up listening to those bands so there is some corollary there that is hard to escape but in some regard, I think there is less overlap on a Venn diagram than some might think,” said Nee. “There are already so many people directly ripping off Eyehategod and we are in two very different headspaces for sure.”
Saturday’s show will be an introduction for the band to many in the region but it isn’t their last. The band is part of the Basilica Hudson’s Soundscape festival that takes place September 15-17.
Nee says it is exactly the kind of show the band looks forward to playing. “We’re stoked about it–playing on a bill with Zola Jesus–stuff you don’t normally get to play with because promoters usually just put generic doom band on the bill with us.”
Nee’s deference and excitement for Zola Jesus isn’t just a put-on to hype the show. He says the band has been using social media to try to convince Zola Jesus to collaborate with them on an album.
There’s good news for locals who are familiar with Thou–they’ll be playing songs for their planned follow up to 2014’s Heathen–an album that Pitchfork named metal album of the year.
Asked about how things have changed for the band since the critical acclaim they received for Heathen, Nee laughed. “It did help us get into bigger venues and got us contacts in cities we don’t normally play. It’s meant we don’t have to worry as much about whether people will be at the show and whether we’re all going broke–it’s wonderful to play for people who are excited about our music.”
Thou will play Upstate Concert Hall on July 1 at 8 PM. Also on the bill are, Cloud Rat, False and Moloch. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.