Thou’s new album, Heathen, has range, but it’s something like the range between the horror of death and an almost peaceful acceptance of its inevitability, between the looming cataclysm and a halting spiritual perception of something that will outlast it — or at least the lesson learned that the finite minutes we have now are worth seizing for all they are worth, and that it is pain which grounds us in what is important.
Heathen is this Louisiana band’s fourth full album and the first since 2010’s Summit. They haven’t been idle during the years in between, producing an assortment of EPs and splits along the way. But Heathen is a monolithic effort — an hour and fifteen minutes of music. It’s a lot to take in, and not simply because of the time required. It taxes your well-being. It drags you down. It’s so crushingly dark, so heavy, and so wholly engulfing in its doomed atmospherics that it ought to come with a warning to the emotionally fragile.
And yet just when you think you’re going to sink beneath the waves, Thou throw you a life preserver, a little something to lighten the load, if only briefly. The immaculate weaving together of those two strands — the sense of drowning and the grasp of a lifeline to the surface — that’s what makes Heathen such a compelling experience.