A Primer of Holy Words

Thou

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A Primer of Holy Words Review

by Paul Simpson

Staunchly independent and staggeringly prolific, Louisiana's Thou have released dozens of limited EPs and splits along with their main albums, often featuring covers of songs by their main influences. They've frequently compiled non-album material on releases like Ceremonies of Consolidation and Ceremonies of Repetition, and two digital collections from 2020 focused solely on covers. The 16-track Blessings of the Highest Order consisted of Nirvana songs, while A Primer of Holy Words collected songs by grunge, hardcore, and metal bands from Pearl Jam to Minor Threat. For the most part, the covers are largely faithful to the originals, except that they're extra sludgy and usually contained growled or shrieked vocals. Shellac's vengeful "Prayer to God" turns out to be ideal for this treatment, and Soundgarden's already massive "Fourth of July" is turned into an even slower, bleaker behemoth. On this song and Alice in Chains' radio hit "No Excuses," Thou juxtapose clean lead vocals with demonic howling, similar to their own homage to '90s grunge and alt-metal, 2018's Rhea Sylvia. The digital version of A Primer of Holy Words included renditions of four Black Sabbath classics ("Into the Void," "Sweet Leaf," "Black Sabbath," and "Lord of This World"), and they're all as powerful and skull-crushingly loud as one would expect. Additionally, the band find a way to make Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down" sound heavy enough to be mistaken for one of the Sabbath tunes. Sacred Bones' 2022 vinyl edition omits the Sabbath tracks, and instead features a second Pearl Jam song, a surprising cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps," and a nearly industrial version of "Anarchy's Stupid" by obscure New Orleans punk band Ginger Quail. Thou have a fairly consistent approach to covers, so all of the songs on the various editions of A Primer of Holy Words sound recognizably like Thou, and it's interesting to hear them interpret their various influences. Maybe not the definitive Thou release, but still enjoyable and worthwhile for the group's fans.

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