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Thūn – Thūn Award winner

by Paul LaPlaca at 13 September 2021, 12:37 PM

Are you still butt-hurt that OPETH doesn’t growl anymore? Well, THUN is just the thing to dry those tears. Holy shit, did I go down a rabbit hole for this review. For the noobs like me, THUN (and no, I’m not going to try to figure out how to do the squiggly thing over the U!) is the debut album from the insanely prolific JON HIGGS who connects the dots with bassist HUGO WILKINSON in MONSTERWORKS and the anonymous BULL ELEPHANT. Digging through the back catalog of these bands has been a pleasure and somewhat of an embarrassment that they haven’t shown up on my radar before. There are commonalities across all three projects but definitely enough to differentiate them into three separate entities. Primarily, the vocals in MONSTERWORKS lean towards cleaner styles with some growls while the music is more proggy. BULL ELEPHANT has a combination of HETFIELD and SHULDINER vocals and a doomier songwriting approach. And finally, THUN has a de-tuned, sludgy, stoner vibe with pretty much straight-up growled vocals. Again, I am floored and embarrassed that all THREE of these bands have escaped my attention up to this point.

JON HIGGS a.k.a. JONO BLADE must be some kind of superhuman alien to put out this much amazing music. THUN is a remarkable extension on the previous bands’ foundation of prog, death, and doom but it is in this last area that they really excel and it’s in no small part thanks to drummer JAMES KNOERL. There is something very deliberate about doom beats, where the drummer plays slightly behind the beat and draws you in, to almost feel like you are falling out of your chair. It’s one of my favorite aspects of doom. Not only does this drummer have a command of this and uses it to great effect to support the huge, epic, chord changes- he moves very unexpectedly and beyond predictability into blast beats and other styles in places you might not see them coming. KNOERL goes through the entire album, bringing one surprise after another as he plays against expectations and shows an extremely high-level command of rudiments, groove, and vibe. He develops ideas across several measures where normal drummers would still to a one bar fill. Bassist, WILKINSON delivers an outstanding performance, punching holes in a cloud of dissonant textures and chord tones, carving out a bass track that has a life of its own and doesn’t simply mimic every guitar line.

The opening track from this self-titled debut clocks in at 8:50 and is mostly, dirge-like and punishing, like waves pressing you down into the depths of a black ocean but at 7:30, the drums kick into a blast, and you are transported into another realm. “Cage Within A Cage” features wonderful, clean dissonance in the guitars and a jaw-dropping solo from NILE’s KARL SANDERS. He must be using the lowest gauge strings tuned down until they are just about to fall off the neck. The vibrato is so wide it feels like he is just shaking the life out of it. “Unity” is a lovely acoustic piece with what sounds like hand drums, doumbek maybe?

“Momentary Truce” is another light instrumental in a similar vein with a focus on piano. By far the standout track for me is “Gaiacide”. I can’t find enough words to describe, “epic”, “glorious”, “mind-boggling”. It is awe-inspiring on every level. It leaves me speechless. THUN is an incredible addition to an already ridiculously impressive body of work. Rumour has it, this is part of a 4 album cycle and the other 3 already have the drums completed. I can’t wait to hear what’s next and do a deep dive into the entire MONSTERWORKS history!

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

5 Star Rating

1. Thūn
2. Cage Within a Cage
3. Unity
4. Intertwined Collective Fate
5. Righteous Violence
6. Momentary Truce
7. Gaiacide
Jon Higgs – Vocals, Guitar
Karl Sanders - Lead Guitar
Hugo Wilkinson – Bass
James Knoerl – Drums
Record Label: Eat Lead and Die Music


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