Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of Year # 3: Thou - Heathen

Thou Heathen cover
Thou are a three-piece progressive doom/drone/sludge band from Baton Rouge,Louisiana, and you'd think at the very least just based on their hometown that they were notable. They've had a pretty decent career since they formed in 2005, and if they weren't quite Taylor Swift, their 2014 was pretty good, as well. Their self-maintained--though still incomplete--discography lists 25 different releases in which they've had a hand, and the current version of the band has played almost 450 shows. On March 19, 2014, National Public Radio of all people began streaming their 2014 release, entitled Heathen, and that album, released on March 25, which I myself managed to put my greasy paws upon some time later, has gone on to receive all kinds of accolades. For example, it was named Show No Mercy's best album of the year, was named one of the 50 on Stereogum's general list, and also made Wondering Sound's Top 25 for the year.

For all that, the album has its ups and downs. Some of the tracks do not differentiate themselves from any sludge doom you may care to name; others, however, sparkle. Lengthy dirges "Into the Marshland," and "At the Foot of Mt. Driskill" are shiver-inducing for their tone, and yes, melody. "Feral Faun," though after a pastoral intro just as long and just as dirgeful, did not grab me, because the tone and melody were not there. A third class of track, dubbed interludes, but perhaps given the brutal and unrelenting nature of the remainder of the material better understood as respites, lets the band flash its more proggy horns, as they are shorter much more tranquil works, employing organ, acoustic guitar and clean female vocals.

The entire effect even with the weaker tracks is stunning. Heathen is 75 minutes that hammer you, then gives you a break, then hammers you some more. With nods to Parquet Courts and Witch Mountain and Woods of Desolation and Mr. Jarmusch, and some others, I don't think it's the best album I've heard this year, but it is definitely one of them. It's very good, and considering that there are people out there who liked Heathen even more than I did, Thou are certainly a band to follow, and one that is dare I say, notable.

Funny to find, then, that Wikipedia's once-extant page on the band has been deleted for non-notability. We're all used to seeing Wikipedia act in strange ways when it comes to politics, but heretofore I'd thought that articles on the arts wouldn't be subject to stupid revert wars.

Wikipedia logo
The thing is, anybody qualified enough to know whether Thou and their excellent new album are notable enough or not to warrant inclusion in their encyclopedia would know that they were. Basically, you've got an editor who presumes to know, but doesn't.

This offends more than just my metal fandom. I know this doesn't apply to academia (so much), but the rest of us have made Wikipedia the default authority to appeal to, in much the same way we've made Amazon our default bookseller--all great until Amazon decides they don't really want to sell the books of those authors published by Hachette, or Wikipedia decides that this sludge metal is just a little too specialized for inclusion.

I don't know; maybe it's just me. The other thing I think of is that the band themselves could have put their page back at any time. So maybe they don't care. Which would mean that the site I look toward for capusle biographies has simply become irrelevant while I wasn't looking.

And that would be just as upsetting.

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