by Louis Johnson
It’s not often that I would equate listening to an album with traumatic injury, but in the case of the new album from metal groups The Body and Thou, it’s the sonic equivalent of being hit by a freight train.
“You, Whom I Have Always Hated” is the second collaborative release from two heavyweights in the world of extreme music. A follow up to their 2014 album “Released from Love,” the new tracks are best described as a descent into madness.
For those unfamiliar with the groups, Thou is a doom metal band from Baton Rouge, La. who have become notorious for their relentless output, turning out multiple releases almost every year since their inception, mostly in the form of EPs and splits. Their discography adds up to a total of 30 releases over the course of 10 years.
They had an incredibly successful year in 2014 with the release of their fourth, full length “Heathen.” The album received much critical acclaim and landed the top spot on Pitchfork Magazine’s Best Metal Albums of 2014.
The Body is an experimental metal group from Portland, Ore. who dabble in sludge metal and noise. They’ve made a name for themselves creating huge, immersive and utterly terrifying soundscapes. 2014 was also a big year for The Body as they released their album “I Will Die Here” to much critical acclaim. To top the year off, they set out on a U.S. tour with Thou in support of both their albums and their collaborations.
The new release kicks off with slow, rumbling drums that eventually get washed over in feedback and distorted guitars, creating the maddening noise of “Her Strongholds Unvanquishable.” Cymbals are mercilessly smashed and the guitars create a wall of noise over the sound of Thou singer Bryan Funck screaming like a trapped animal.
Then enters The Body’s vocalist Chip King, who sounds like something between a man set on fire and a wolf howling at the moon. The noise conjures up the feeling of being locked in a cage. It’s complimented nicely by the record’s lyrical content, as being trapped is a common theme in Funck’s song writing. In the track, Funck writes of illusions created to be interpreted as reality, and the subjects of the song devote their livelihood in these illusions. When the truth is revealed as to what the subjects have invested themselves in, they are left with nothing. This metaphor alludes to people who invest all their time in illusions constructed by society, like wealth and social status, rather than things with inherent value.
The second track “The Devils of Trust Steal the Souls of the Free” incorporates less noise than the first and carries Thou’s traditional doom metal sound. But with the addition of The Body, this song contains some of the most sludgy and nasty doom metal I’ve heard in a while. It’s somewhat of a love song, although it is grim in typical Thou fashion. The lyrics describe a love that has died over time. A pair has formed a bond of trust with each other at the cost of their free spirits, and over time their bond has withered, leaving them without love or freedom.
The third track was a pleasant surprise, as it turned out to be a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Terrible Lie.” How appropriate that Thou and The Body, in their album littered with industrial sounds, cover a song by NIN, which of course is credited with bringing industrial music into the mainstream. The cover takes what NIN did in 1989 and builds on it tenfold by adding many extra layers of sound so that it leaves the original song sounding puny in comparison. Once again the noise and electronics of The Body come through on this track, creating this cacophonous sound that terrifies the listener.
The following track, “Beyond the Realms of Dream, That Fleeting Shade Under the Corpus of Vanity” once again hits the listener with drums, noise and distorted guitars, although this time the song is a bit more up tempo. Lyrically, the track explores death and the release that is found in it.
Another common theme that appears in Funck’s writing is his dissatisfaction with humanity. The phrase in the song title “Beyond the Realm of Dreams” alludes to death, and the latter half of the title “That Fleeting Shade Under the Corpus of Vanity” refers to first the fleetingness of existence and second the vanity that shapes our ego, which in turn forms one’s identity. The track describes how after death, once vanity, ignorance and ego die, all that is left is the flesh.
The fifth track is the interlude “He Returns to the Place of His Iniquity.” Although there are no lyrics, the song title perfectly describes the feeling conveyed. It feels like a scene in which the perpetrator of a horrible act has returned to the site of his crime to bask in memories of wickedness.
Then comes the closer “Lurking Fear,” to punish for the two minutes of calm in the interlude. I know I’ve already said it about every other track on this album, but this song is incredibly loud. Lyrically, it explores Funck’s recurring theme of imprisonment in oppressive social and political systems. This time it is imprisonment through pedigree, for the song speaks of countless sons who are forced to or willingly following in their fathers’ footsteps, continuing their ancestors work, unable to break the law of those who came before. As the last lines go, “For I am him, and he is me, until the end of time.” The song’s end returns to music from the interlude track, alluding to an immorality passed from generation to generation.
Calling this album heavy would be an understatement. This isn’t an album; it’s a force of nature. Its a hurricane demolishing everything in its path. It’s a giant guillotine. It’s a 100 mile per hour car collision. Heavy doesn’t begin to describe the crushing depths this music exists in. The noisiness of Thou and The Body complement each other well, and they create a cacophonous hell from which there is no escape. When the album ends, you’ve been pummeled to death for 26 minutes, but it still leaves the listener wanting more. Its short length is satisfying, but leaves the impression that the best work between these two has yet to come, and I eagerly anticipate the next auditory barrage they have to offer.