The erasure of all-ages basementlike venues and resolute DIY spaces in New Orleans — from Mid-City’s Banks Street Warehouse, downtown’s The A.R.K., and, more recently, the Big Top 3 Ring Circus in Uptown — merely forced the city’s disparate DIY scene to adapt to scattered generator-powered shows in parking lots and skateparks, art galleries and movie theaters and in living rooms and coffee shops.
Bryan Funck is the longtime, unsung adhesive for south Louisiana’s DIY network, and as vocalist with Baton Rouge-New Orleans band Thou, among his longest-running projects, he’s amassed a book-length manifesto encompassing radical destruction and critical dissections of scene politics and himself, while anchoring a decade of New Orleans DIY and punk through Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. Funck’s affinity for monochromatic New Romantic, Renaissance, Victorian and biblical imagery — done tongue-in-cheek to satirize performative “punk” aesthetics — stitches together countless show flyers, album artwork, EPs, cassettes, LPs and other ephemera, the threads of punk scene propaganda masquerading as a prolific metal band.
The band’s latest, Magus, a double LP debut for Sacred Bones Records, was teased with three EPs released this summer, each focused on a distinct sound subsumed by Magus’ shroud. The grim The House Primordial returned Thou to its caustic beginnings, visceral doom and raw drone warped by feedback and static. The band followed with Inconsolable, released on Community Records and largely stripping Thou of its volume, replaced with a meditative and acoustic score that weighs as much as its titanic riffs, then Rhea Sylvia, indulging the band’s ’90s grunge worship.
Funck’s dense screeds — words as heavy as the riffs carrying them — lash like acid, carried in a thick smog weaving around gorgeous, impenetrably heavy riffs from guitarists Andy Gibbs and Matthew Thudium. Funck’s verses are secular prayers and scathing self-critiques, blistering prose laying waste to policing, supremacy, pacifism, gentrification and all of Baton Rouge, all while alternately clutching to and denouncing death, destruction, alienation and fatigue. He embraces the absurdity of humanity not in resignation to it, but to conjure those bleak existential desires and submission to the forever-looming darkness as a means to purge them, pinning them to a wall and then bulldozing that wall. Magus is the sound of rowing against the struggle’s wake and resisting an impulse to give up.
The band’s album release show also is the live debut of New Orleans’ MJ Guider, whose acclaimed 2017 album Precious Systems (Kranky Records) wanders into that post-industrial decay, guided by sonic extremes and thriving on the pulse that binds them.
Free admission. 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31 at Defend New Orleans, 600 Carondelet St., Suite 140.