Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle played MassArt – 4/5

New Orleans sludge metal shapeshifters Thou and singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle teamed up for a spring tour that hit Boston’s Massachusetts College of Art and Design earlier this month with support from locals Seed. 

If we’ve learned to expect anything from Thou over the years, it’s the unexpected. Sure, they’re due for a grand statement of an atmospheric sludge record every now and then – like last year’s monolithic Magus – but their tours, detours and collaborations in between are what make the group so fascinating. Joining forces with Rundle for a tour that alternated separate and collaborative sets in different cities would be an unconventional order for most metal bands, but kind of a natural fit for this one.

In Boston, within the confines of MassArt’s lovely and cavernous Pozen Center, it was a separate-sets night that found the two acts trafficking in vastly different but nonetheless complementary forms of heaviness. Rundle took the stage alone with her guitar, commanding the sizable space with a stony intensity and the air of a gothic alt-country troubadour. The crowd stood riveted from the first note.

Thou, meanwhile, wielded some old-fashioned volume to bludgeon an audience glad for the privilege. Blood-red light bathed the room and the band’s current six-piece lineup set to the task of dispensing of their apocalyptic epics with little fanfare. Grim and uncompromising, with a sonic weight felt in one’s bones, it was classic Thou.

Boston trio Seed proved a perfect choice to split the difference between the night’s touring acts. I’d yet to catch a set from the band, and their doom-y, haunted post-rock made an instant fan of me.

See photos from all three sets below.