Mizmor and Thou are kindred spirits that come to metal with what might seem like dramatically different approaches. Portland’s Mizmor is the project of a solitary figure, A.L.N., an artist whose take on black metal is both unconventional and wholly immersive, his albums such as 2019’s Cairn or this year’s Wit’s End arriving as immense works bound by an emotional weight even greater than that of his dense array of guitars. Louisiana’s Thou, similar in the sense that they’re a stylistically heterodox group, are best understood by their ability to never stop moving, their body of work a continually expanding catalog of grungy doom—albums, EPs, seven-inches, splits and collabs—that often aims for transcendence even when observing a society that feels irrevocably broken. But listen to a Thou album from front to back, and do likewise with Mizmor, and check in with yourself afterward; you might recognize similar feeling of exhaustive catharsis overcome you.
After recently debuting their first recorded collaboration, a Zola Jesus cover that also features fellow friend-of-Thou Emma Ruth Rundle, Mizmor and Thou offer up 74 minutes of soul-searing triumph in the form of Myopia. Released in conjunction with the two artists’ appearance at Roadburn 2022 (and “created in secret,” per a press release), Myopia reflects another common trait between them, specifically their ability to work well with others. There are about a half-dozen collaborative releases between the two of them (most of them being Thou’s, to be fair), and it speaks volumes about the chemistry between them that Myopia is one of the strongest of the bunch, a work of slow-churning anguish that soars all the same.
The two artists seem to bring out the best in each other, not just as sounding boards or participants in a studio experiment, but working together seamlessly as a unit. A track like the searing opening explosion of “Prefect” suggests as much, Thou’s dense and sludgy take on black metal enhanced by A.L.N.’s guttural roars and a shared penchant for weaponized melancholy. As a blazing introduction to the project, it’s relatively brief but wholly satisfying, a fluid fusion of two of contemporary metal’s most consistently strong talents. There’s a similar synthesis to “Subordinate” and “Drover of Man,” but it’s delivered at a far less dizzying clip, in the latter opening up more space within their crushing expanse.
Deeper into the album, the horizons seem to widen in real time, the urgency of “Prefect” giving way to a soaring and elegant dirge in “The Host,” or a spiraling multi-part suite of a standout in “Indignance.” While rare is the moment that doesn’t carry a sense of grandeur on Myopia, however, the final two tracks are where Thou and Mizmor showcase the heights of their ambition. The title track is a slow march toward breathtaking guitar harmonies and an abrasive chug, climaxing in a beautifully melancholy blackened doom. “The Root,” meanwhile, caps the album with an ample dose of Thou’s slo-mo grunge, an intersection of melodic glory washed in the kind of harshness and agony that gives either band’s music its ability to affect on a visceral level.
That’s ultimately what makes Myopia so inspiring—that this is music you’re meant to feel as much as hear, and not strictly feelings of pain or despair either. There’s something inspiring and joyful about this pairing, even in its most intense moments, that speaks to a sense of community and the idea of a whole being even greater than the sum of its parts. This is a beautiful album made of harsh elements, catharsis crystallized into melody and drone. It’s through albums like these where we get to truly understand the best of what metal can be.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.