Review: Thetan ‘Grand Ole Agony’

Following up the fantastic Dim Times EP (which just so happened to be reviewed by little old me), is Thetan‘s third full-length album Grand Ole Agony. The Nashville, Tennessee duo Chad L’Eplattenier (drums/theremin) and Dan Emery (bass/theremin/vocals/mountain dulcimer) have been kicking ass since their 2011 formation.

Thetan 'Grand Ole Agony' Artwork
Thetan ‘Grand Ole Agony’ Artwork

However, while the band can rage with the best of them, they are not immune to experimenting with other genres, this is something the numerous guest appearances on Grand Ole Agony will demonstrate. Who are these mysterious entities you may ask? Read on…

God’s America opens with a monologue by Three 6 Mafia’s Crunchy Black, a legendary artist in the world of Horrorcore. Considering the extreme nature of Thetan‘s music, it’s hardly a shock that a musical equivalent from the hip-hop world would be featured. After the intro, the track explodes into a maelstrom of tortured vocals and blastbeats and if this is what God’s America sounds like, I dread to think how the devils would. An awesome opener.

Blackened Inside tips its hat to early ‘90s Norwegian black metal whereby those bands were able to conjure a sense of abject despair; this undoubtedly helps the track to live up to its grim sounding name. White Sheets Blowing in the Breeze comes as an unexpected yet delightful surprise, a sludge metal beast oozing negative, cynical vibes that recall Grief, Corrupted et al while Bless Your Heart is a little more influenced by d-beat pioneers Discharge with a riff that will have the hairs on the back of your head standing on end.

I had no idea that Gutted was a term used in America, whether it has a similar meaning over there as it does in the UK is anyone’s guess. The track features some lovely stringed instrumentation courtesy of folk soloist Leslie Fox-Humphreys aka The Bandit Queen Of Sorrows on cello and Ashley Mae of Lost Dog Street Band on violin that contrasted nicely to the considerably heavier less ‘pretty’ latter portion of the track. If like myself and a lot of my Shaman colleagues you have a love for Anti-Corp‘s magnificent The Magnolia Sessions, then you’ll be more than content with Sad Endings And A Feeling Of Disappointment as its acoustic country-folk and the sounds of nature in tow provides a brief aural reprieve for the listener.

a maelstrom of tortured vocals and blastbeats…

Coup De Grace is raging, full-on face-melting power violence goodness while Culo is also not lacking in the intensity stakes either with an ‘80s crossover vibe that ticks a lot of my boxes, the squealing guitar and demented vocal outbursts reminding me of DC’s finest, Void. Note To Self initially seems to mine classic Terrorizer, one of grindcore’s more underappreciated bands (in my opinion) before taking the track down a ‘progressive’ and dizzyingly unpredictable finish.

Eulogy at well over fourteen minutes is the album’s undisputed epic. Once again cello and violin are utilised to brilliant effect, gelling perfectly with Dan and Chad‘s crushing musical backdrop. Appearances are also made by the great saxophonist Mac Gollehon (session musician extraordinaire) as well as intense soundscapes courtesy of Gridfailure‘s Dave Brenner. The music has an eminently creepy tone, one that could be associated with the darkest of Henry Rollins era Black Flag with even Benjamin Tod‘s harmonica unable to lighten the mood. A fascinatingly brilliant way to conclude the record.

The album’s promotional notes describe it as ‘delving into the depths of the human psyche, loss of companionship, and the death of a solar system’ which may not sound like the happiest of listens. But misery loves company and I found it yet another thoroughly engaging piece of work from the Thetan duo.

Label: Anti-Corporate Music
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills