Louisiana doom punks Thou are known for releasing a lot of high-quality, genre-busting music (which includes 20-plus full-length records, singles and EPs), but in 2018 the band is taking "prolific" next level by dropping not one, not two, but three EPs across three different record labels — The House Primordial (Raw Sugar), Inconsolable (Community Records) and Rheia Sylvia (Deathwish) — plus a new full-length record, Magus, on Sacred Bones. While all four offering are packed with original material, the Rheia Sylvia EP, which is available for pre-order via Deathwish, concludes with a particularly filthy, feedback-ridden take on fellow Louisianans Crowbar's "The Lasting Dose," off 2001's Sonic Excess in Its Purest Form. Check it out above; and below, check out Thou's epic "Metairie Metal Mix" of heavy jams from South Louisiana, along with vocalist Bryan Funck's in-depth commentary on each track.
Thou: This is a collection of abrasive and heavy music from South Louisiana. The bands — some briefly active years ago, some still active, some I couldn't include because their recordings are lost to the sands of time, and at least one relatively household name — run the gamut of "punk," "metal" and "other," but most importantly, they represent parts of the DIY scene that played an intensely important role in our personal lives and in our band. Scattered throughout the region (New Orleans/Metairie, Lafayette and Baton Rouge) they retained the same spirit of DIY that led to shows in coffee shops, warehouses, sketchy dive bars, American Legion Halls, or someone's living room. Some of these band's shows literally changed our lives. I'll never forget seeing the Faeries open up for Eyehategod at the Howlin' Wolf around 2004, and their singer Joey Gates doing an Andy Kaufman–esque monologue as a motivational speaker before launching into a depraved grunge/punk onslaught, all during what had to have been one of EHG's most fucked-up and sloppy eras. It blew me away that EHG would be into having this kind of out-there non-metal band open their show (the naiveté of youth!). Hellkontroll and Jude Fawley were both short-lived bands but absolute firebrands live. At their last show ever, Jude Fawley's singer literally broke a mic stand in half onstage at the Spanish Moon in Baton Rouge during their very last song, and Hellkontroll shows were usually insanely chaotic blurs played in a halfway-condemned apartment and at least once riddled with many smoke bombs. I'm sure if Bryan were writing this he would probably write many, many paragraphs about As They Wept, who were in a local metalcore band well before my time (and well before the genre devolved into full-blown moshcore), and if given the space I could drone on indefinitely about the rest of the bands and the incredible spaces that existed throughout the years like the Banks Street Warehouse, Dixie Taverne, Miguel's House, Q's House of Screamo and on and on and on. I could talk about how Baton Rouge was once an incredibly fertile place for DIY despite such a large population of conservative frat boys and sports fans, and how New Orleans was once full of local weirdos and goths instead of hip tourists and drunk trainhoppers. I could even talk about how newer bands like Thrush are keeping the spirit alive now. Ask one of us in person at a show. For now, here's the music and a little bit from Bryan about each band.
1. Faeries "Your Milk Is My Poison"
It's impossible to talk about the Faeries without acknowledging the legendary Joseph Gates. A lyrical genius, he took the best parts of Sam McPheeters and coupled it with a pre–Info Wars conspiracy paranoia and a confrontational, updated-for-the-2000s take on social politics. Live, Joey was a complete maniac, hurling his body around stage, into the audience, enormous tendrils of saliva and mucous covering his face, hands, body. I hate to gush about the "frontman" lead singer, but he remains one of my biggest inspirations. Musically, the Faeries existed somewhere in the lines between Nirvana, Born Against and Page Ninety Nine — dark, gross, noisy, grungy, pissed off, punk rock — the soundtrack of my early twenties. I could go on forever about these guys, but I'll just leave it by saying that 15 years later I still think they're easily the best band to ever come out of New Orleans.
2. Thrush, "Threadbare"
Every now and then in the barren wasteland called "post-rock metal" — an overplayed, stagnant, desiccated subgenre that haunts every one of our tour routes — every now and then we find that sweet, sweet oasis. We find a unique and interesting band that isn't just putting on a costume and playing to genre tropes in order to fit a certain bill. Thrush is one of those bands, making their home in a sound more akin to Europe than Metairie or Harahan, and defying the sludge-Sabbath-ring-kissing that local metal dweebs feel obliged to purse their lips for.
3. Rat in a Bucket, "Capsized"
As a young man, entering his early twenties, the seemingly fully grown "men" of Rat in a Bucket were incredibly intimidating. Tattoos, biceps, confidence, thick Chalmette accents — these guys seemed as far as could be from the limp-dick, third-wave ska punks and dyed-hair suburban twerps I was accustomed to verbally pushing around. But it wasn't long before the curtain parted, and I realized how sweet and genuine these guys actually were. Yeah, they're tough as nails and have no stomach for pretentious bullshit. Yeah, they were playing some of the heaviest, most brutal music in town even 20 years ago. Yeah, Sean has been walking out in the audience and serenading individuals with that big, beautiful, bald, beet-red head. For folks who love Haarp and Gristnam, this was where it all really started. Power violence!
4. Jude Fawley, "Two Halves"
In a shitty town like Baton Rouge, full of poseurs, twerps and turds, Jude Fawley really stood out. Musically, they were unparalleled and set the local standard for "tight." They were a bunch of seemingly normal-looking guys, but they looked like complete psychopaths when they performed. When describing them, local screamos always brought up Breather Resist in the same breath, but I would be lying if I didn't say they channeled an intensity live more akin to Botch, truly punishing their instruments and their bodies while remaining on one hundred percent on point. These guys are sorely missed and horribly underrated.
5. The Devil and the Sea, "Monolith"
I was always a big fan of Lafayette's Icepick Revival, a band that could have easily slid onto the late Nineties Hydra Head roster and seemed like they played Dixie Taverene every weekend in their heyday. Years later, when those guys formed the Devil and the Sea, we did a weekend of Louisiana shows with them and Haarp, hitting our hometowns of Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I was immediately blown away. They had a fully formed, realized sound right out of the box. Truly no fucking about. It was the first time I had ever heard a local band live in a shitty dive bar that sounded like a "real band." Heavy, bleak, ferocious — they took everything they had flirted with in Icepick and ramped it up a thousand notches.
6. Hellkontroll, "Pressure"
Tight black clothes covered in patches and studs, dyed black hair, mohawks, piercings, tattoos, endless band shirts, an intimate knowledge of obscure punk seven inches — all the trappings of the vapid, dress-up "punx" I usually avoid at all costs. But Hellkontroll was absolutely the real deal. From Alexandria (seemingly by way of Japan!), this two-piece was one of the grindiest, heaviest, noisiest bands around. They seemed to play every other show in Baton Rouge back when house shows reigned, and every time I saw them it was pure fucking chaos. They put us to shame every show we played together.
7. As They Wept, "At the Water's Edge"
As They Wept was truly the thing that did not belong in New Orleans: straight-edge, at some times vegan, worshipers of obscure North Carolina metalcore, literate. Sure, at one point I really butted heads with the guys in this band. There could be a palpable sense of elitism and contention rolling off of them that dwarfed anything coming from the Art Punx or Suburban Sludgelords. But a few difficult personalities could not eclipse the incredible music they were making. One of my biggest regrets about this band is that I didn't try to mend some of the personal bridges myself, and encouraged them to play more. I didn't get to see these guys anywhere near enough. By the end of their lifespan, As They Wept had well surpassed their brazen homage to Prayer for Cleansing and had come into their own as a talented and creative force. A total standout for New Orleans.
8. Object at the End of History, "Bugs in Bikinis"
At a time when bands like Explosions in the Sky and the Album Leaf were taking the epic Godspeed sound and making it more indie-rocker palatable, Object at the End of History was in Lafayette brewing something heavier and weirder, more aligned with the post-rock stylings of Isis by way of the bayou. It's terrible that I only got to see these guys a few times in their brief existence, but I'll never forgot those shows, like them opening for Mare in a punk warehouse space. They really opened my eyes to the concept of making "pretty" music sound heavy.
9. Hawg Jaw, "Embrace the Absence"
Before Gary Mader went on to international fame [with Eyehategod], he was fronting the New Orleans sludge punk staple Hawg Jaw. Despite their political clashes with the transplant art punks, to whose DIY politically correct militancy I had sworn my allegiance, Hawg Jaw was still a huge influence on me. Mike Dares always seemed like a total nutter butter with his baseball-capped, thousand-yard stare and acerbic contention for their audience. Holly was one of my first interactions with a strong, punk-as-fuck lady clearly making her own space and dominating the boys-club metal scene. And obviously, Gary Mader set the bar pretty high, being a reliable, supportive, down-to-earth pillar of the New Orleans DIY scene. He was booking all the best metal and hardcore shows as Gun in Mouth and really set a standard for how I would approach doing shows for the next 20 years.
10. Indignation, "Hisastu"
Love 'em or hate 'em (and most people absolutely hated em!), Indignation was. Fucking. AWESOME. A bunch of transplant college kids snubbing their noses at the drug-laden sludge metal calling itself hardcore, they were true children of the mid-Nineties metalcore style of bands like Earth Crisis, Culture and Zao — a type of music that has never found fertile ground in the alcohol-soaked soil of New Orleans, and it certainly didn't help that the loudest mouths in this band were straight-edge! Indignation is pretty much the archetype for my favorite style of punk music. Their 7-inch is one of the best records in the subgenre. And it's a complete tragedy that the LP they recorded never saw the light of day. If anyone has a bead on Mat Beckerman, please make it happen!!!
11. Eyehategod, "Blank"
At one point, a person we were pointlessly feuding with told us, "You don't even know who Eyehategod is!" Our response was to write a total EHG ripoff song and close it out with the first two riffs from "Blank." Yeah, they influenced us a little bit! Eyehategod has had an undeniable impact on the "New Orleans sound." At one point in the late Nineties, it seemed like every band in town was straight-up ripping them off. I've seen them through all their phases: in gross shambles or straight-shooting and tight. But no matter which version I got, I've always been struck by the power of their presence, the sarcasm and wit they use to bludgeon the audience, and the undeniable efficacy of loud, ear-piercing, almighty Feedback.