I always thought that seeing Thou live would be the equivalent to getting the shit kicked out of me, and because of events that transpired earlier in the day, I was right. No, I’m not a split personality-bearing, soap maker, spending his evenings engaged in activities he can’t talk about (or maybe I am). I attempt to lead what some call a “healthy lifestyle”, the key word being attempt. In doing so, I take advantage of the fitness center where I work, but this puts me on the radar of something commonly found in fitness centers: crazy people. Said crazy people where I work, who are actually wonderful people, organize themselves on Fridays over the lunch hour for what they call “bootcamp”. On this particular Friday, I let myself get roped into 35 minutes of sweaty, grunt-filled, muscle-annihilaing madness. These people willingly punish themselves…and enjoy it. I barely had the strength to take off my shirt off when it was over, let alone any other normal task throughout the rest of the day. The show, a mere 9 hours away, felt insurmountable in my current condition, yet at the same time, a light at the end of the tunnel.
I was embarrassed at how battered I felt, but my sights were set on a few solid hours of metal. Eyes on the prize. Fortunately, The Triple Rock has a lovely tap selection, all of which were lined up and happy to ease my pain (HammerHeart on tap!). Näive Sense have the taste of blood in their mouths. The local Minneapolis quartet’s immensely intense level of gritty hardcore rawness kicked the evening off. Singer Natalie Grace McKay’s voice sounds as though she was reaching the outermost threshold of her vocal range, something that speaks volumes to the purity of their angst, while warming my heart at the same time. Any loose skin on my face was stretched thin as they possessed the stage, like a vice grip of aggression. Staying true to the characteristics of the traditional hardcore and punk sound, Näive Sense draws on the keyboard to inject elements of electro and noise, giving their sound an added layer of dimension. My body already felt better.
I saw False for the first time this past August at their release show for Untitled. To say their set was amazing would be a vast understatement. Since then, I’d spent much time with Untitled, gaining a solid familiarity and love for their brand of black metal, along with a strong desire to see them again. As they began to set up this evening, a sense of sinister giddiness grew inside me. As their set commenced, I was consumed with the feeling of both amazement and enlightenment. Hearing songs from Untitled, in the flesh, only amplifies the euphoria of their sound and the layers of their depth. The wall of noise becomes a more of a circle surrounding you. The chaos, even more intense, gives greater importance to the interludes that you wish were longer…yet you don’t. It struck me most during “The Deluge” as the song gradually begins to recede, continued only by the melody of the guitars. The true beauty of False’s live show is the intricacy with which they perform, both in the technical note-to-note aspect, as well as the unity of six musicians coming together to create one harmoniously dissonant sound, from which you can’t escape, nor do you want to.
In recent months, instead of researching the bands on a given bill that I’m not familiar with, I do nothing (out of sheer laziness, not some cool concept, but I’ll try and make it sound like that). I let their performance be my first encounter, and tonight, I met Fister. The St. Louis trio broke the ice with a display of piercingly, harmonious feedback cascading into to what I took for their signature filthy sludge-doom sound. Bassist Kenny Snarzyk and guitarist Marcus Newstead provided array of tag-team vocals while drummer Kirk Gatterer completely crushed the low end. I’ve never paid more attention to a drummer’s relationship with their toms…pure art. It was a pleasure meeting Fister, a band with a little more death in their doom, and a little more crust in their sludge.
The instant I read that Thou would be town, I immediately lost consciousness, waking up a short time later, only to find a ticket confirmation in my email and lacking any clues tattooed on my body. Every time this show was mentioned, the word “Thou” was always followed by the phrase “(only regional show)”. This only re-affirmed my swiftness in purchasing a ticket.
Take the most brutal death metal album you’re ever heard and slow it down to half speed, maybe even quarter speed, but then imagine that it still posses just as much brutality at that slower speed as it does at full speed, maybe more. That’s Thou. When Heathen first came out, I gave it a spin and didn’t think much of it. When year-end came though, I saw it popping up on lists all over, so I gave it another listen. I was visibly shaken and upset at how amazing this album really was, but more so at the fact that I’d written it off. Grateful was I for this opportunity. Their set was just as I’d imagined…complete and utter sludge-infused-doom destruction. Singer Bryan Funck’s eye’s tell the story in full. The fire and intensity are an accurate visual representation of Thou’s sound. I’ve never felt chords hit so hard, like literally impacting my body. Interlaced with their brand of tragic melodies, the periods of simmering slowly burn themselves and crescendo up to complete dissonance. Two songs in, I had a flashback to Bleach, only to realize they were indeed crushing a track off Nirvana’s debut (I think, not knowing the exact song at the time, I assumed I could figure it out later, except that didn’t happen). Later in the set, they re-visited the grudge poster children with “Scentless Apprentice,” a track off of In Utero, giving me another unnecessary reason to love this band. From what I could tell, the majority of their set was Algiers and Heathen tracks (along with 2 renditions of “Happy Birthday”). I need to note that while it’s clear Thou are not from these parts, Bryan did a wicked job layering his clothing. I was nothing short of impressed as each layer came off, only to reveal another, and all long-sleeved.
When their set ended, around 1:30 a.m., I had indeed witnessed Thou and I indeed felt like I’d had the shit kicked out of me. The next time I’m able to attend the bootcamp class will be too soon, but I can’t say the same for the next time I see Thou. Of the countless show’s I’ve been to throughout my life, there are only a handful that I truly feel fortunate to have seen. This was one of them.