Forged in Chaotic Spew by ThraRelease date: July 28, 2023
Label: Translation Loss Records
Blending colossal death-doom riffs and cacophonous sludge elements, all sprinkled with a healthy dose of harsh noise, Thra has unleashed a menagerie of the grotesque upon the world. The album rides a balance between the energetic and almost catchy elements of a song like ‘Drag’ and the nearly punishing and merciless aspects of a piece such as ‘Terror Vessel Pt 1’. The listener is engaged by the songs yet put in an unsettling position relative to the material; this is challenging listening at times, but well, well worth it!
Hailing from the sun-baked desert landscapes of Phoenix, Arizona, Thra was formed in 2016 by Robert Wolfe (guitar/vocals), Zach Nixon-Sandberg (bass/vocals), and guitarist Matt Marquette. The quartet was solidified when drummer Grey Smith joined their ranks in 2018. In March 2019, their inaugural demo, titled Garden of Rot, was unleashed in collaboration with Camo Pants Records. Following this, the band introduced two live session demos into their discography. Thra cut their chops and improved their craft while playing alongside the likes of Bell Witch, Sanguisugabogg, Blood Incantation, Primitive Man, Conan, Napalm Death, and numerous others.
The songs on this album touch on the darkness at the heart of human existence. Beginning with a short burst of feedback (a foreshadowing of what’s to come), the album starts with Rob screaming, in a sense of despair and resignation, “The fucks I give are running dry”. Four of the first five songs (comprising side A) are punchy and straightforward disgusting filth, one even being a harsh-noise/dark ambient experiment (more on that later). The most addictive of these four tracks is “‘Drag’, which wormed its way into my subconsciousness immediately. However, it’s really at the end of the first side where we start to hit the true genius of this release. Whereas noise and riffs were kept somewhat separate in the first four songs, on ‘Blistering Eternity’, Thra begins to hit a different stride, weaving noise and riffs together into a more complex and ruthless song. Ending with a single snare hit, one is left feeling unsettled anticipation and excited to see where the album will go.
Where it goes is straight to sonic hell, with the noise piece ‘Vesuvian’. It’s worth pausing here to discuss Thra’s willingness to embrace the use of harsh noise on this release. Three of the songs on this album fall loosely into the area of harsh noise/dark ambient. While some reviewers of the album have referred to these pieces as mere interludes or segues, I would argue that they are compositions in their own right, lending a brooding and ominous weight to the overall impact of Forged in Chaotic Spew. These songs may be the actual articulation of the chaotic spew from which we are forged. The darkest corners of our minds are spaces beyond linguistic traps and tricks, where terror is that which cannot be understood or even named. It is refreshing to see extreme metal explore such sonic spaces (the clearest example and, perhaps, the logical conclusion of such thinking being Timewave Zero by Blood Incantation), and Thra is to be applauded for this!
When the hellscape of ‘Vesuvian’ ends, we are launched into the incredibly dense and savage ‘Primordial Engorgement’. This song contains some excellent death metal riffs, with Nixon-Sandberg providing foul vocals. There is one point around the 5:40 mark where the guitars almost break out into a lead, but restrain themselves. It might be nice to see the guitars cut loose now and again in future releases from the band. With what might be a nod to Incantation, ‘Cosmic Scourge’ is a clear banger of a song, surely to be incredible in a live setting. It is here where the drive to be more energetic truly pays off. You almost can’t help but bang your head to the main riff of the song, and when the double-time section kicks in, you’re ready to lose your mind. The ending of the song demonstrates once again where a bit more attention to the lead work may have taken the song to an even greater level. Closing out the album is ‘Terror Vessel Part 2’, which leaves the listener unsettled and anticipating something more. While some may not like this, I find it to be a bold statement meant to challenge the listener.
On their initial full-length release, Thra has made a concerted effort to move beyond being seen as just a doom band. In an interview, Wolfe stated that they wanted to, “show people that we can step outside our comfort zone”, and not be seen, “strictly as a doom band because of our mid-paced songs”. They have been very successful in achieving this goal. Thra has managed to create a rather mature album that strikes a nice balance between more hooky death metal riffs and grimy/noisy sludge elements. Recorded and mixed by Josh Medina, with mastering done by the prolific Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (who has worked on over 100 albums in 2023 already, including those from the likes of Creeping Death, Cloak, and Obituary), the album has a very raw and live feel. In short, the mix is superb. The cover art by Fred Grabosky is masterfully done and haunting. I’m very interested to see where this band goes, and highly recommend this album!