"It’s incredibly refreshing to hear Thou cutting loose and just rocking out with such gleeful enthusiasm." Umbilical proves Thou are still one of sludge metal's most adventurous and innovative bands

US underground darlings Thou prove there's so much more to them than just sludge on expansive sixth album Umbilical

Thou Press Pic 2024
(Image: © Liam Neighbors)

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After almost two decades of existence, Thou have proven themselves to be one of the most versatile, adventurous and innovative sludge bands of their generation. But just as it seemed the band might be mellowing with age, along comes Umbilical with all the brute force of a stampeding herd of elephants. 

While 2014’s Heathen and 2018’s Magus were glacially paced, 70-minute behemoths that took several spins to fully entangle, this sixth album is arguably the most immediate, visceral record Thou have ever released. 

Drawing influence from obscure 90s DIY hardcore as much as sludge metal, songs like Emotional Terrorist and Lonely Vigil really emphasise the propulsive force of the band’s hulking great grooves, eschewing Magus’s grungier, introspective atmosphere in favour of a far more aggressive bludgeoning. 

Lead single I Feel Nothing When You Cry is uncharacteristically brisk, giving drummer Tyler Coburn a chance to show off his chops, with blistering double-kick rolls powering some of the most mosh-ready riffs the band have concocted yet. Even the album’s more atmospheric moments bristle with an uncomfortable tension. 

The yearning, reverb smothered guitar wails gliding across monolithic valleys of detuned chug on House Of Ideas and the harrowing clean chords in I Return As Chained And Bound To You – one of the few times Umbilical eases off the intensity – lean more towards confrontational noise rock textures than sentimental post-rock soundscapes. 

Umbilical feels like a return to Thou’s roots in many ways, somehow matching the youthful energy of their 2007 debut while sounding even more energised and ferocious. This isn’t to disparage their recent work at all, as both Heathen and Magus are classics in their own right. But after such exhaustive, longform statements, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear Thou cutting loose and just rocking out with such gleeful enthusiasm.

Umbilical is out now via Sacred Bones.