Cover albums are rarely a good idea. At their very best, they’re a mere curiosity. At their worst (a far more common occurrence), they completely misunderstand the original intent of beloved songs. Because of this, cover albums are largely and rightfully ignored by the vast majority of music journalists. But to every rule there is an exception, and with Blessings of the Highest Order Thou prove they can take their horrendous style of sludge metal and apply it anywhere.
Part of the reason Blessings of the Highest Order succeeds where so many cover albums fail is that Thou clearly took time to consider what music would sound good when covered by them. Bands tend to think about what music they would like to cover, rather than music that would function when covered in their style. Thou wields this knowledge to not only convincingly cover songs by Nirvana, but to enhance a number of them.
Blessings of the Highest Order immediately establishes its tone by opening with a searing cover of “Aneurysm.” Gone are the wistful croons and pained yelps of Kurt Cobain. In their place we find only screams and roaring guitars. But the massive shift in sound doesn’t come at the expense of the song. Instead of subduing the original intent of Nirvana, Thou manages to awaken the heaviness in each song. Their bold sonic choices take the raging fury that hides beneath the surface of the original track and pulls it up through the skin, leaving the hate laid bare for all to see.
This ethos continues throughout the record and only grows stronger throughout the lengthy runtime. “Stain” is particularly potent — the original track was never interested in hiding its fury, which gives Thou the rare opportunity to fully let loose. The resulting cacophony is one of the most furious performances of the year and may even surpass the original track, blasphemous as that may sound.
Though the record remains excellent through its majority, Blessings of the Highest Order does suffer a few missteps towards its back half. Tracks like “In Bloom” and “Something in the Way” are unable to balance on the knifepoint that Cobain used to compose those tracks. The resulting covers are either not heavy enough or too heavy to be convincingly melancholy.
The record does turn itself around in its final moments with a vicious rendition of “My Girl.” One could argue this isn’t really a Nirvana cover, but given the acclaim Cobain’s unplugged version has garnered, it’s fair to hand this song to them. Thou’s interpretation of this ballad lacks the emotional nuance of Nirvana’s, but manages to replace it with a hateful roar that is just as compelling. Couple that with a gargantuan runtime just under nine minutes, and you’ve got yourself one of the more compelling covers in existence.
While not every single piece of this record comes together, the masterful execution of 90% of this album makes it well worth a listen. Fans of Thou will receive the heavy riffs, ear-rending screams and plodding drums that they’ve come to love, while fans of Nirvana may discover new emotions the band hid in their songs. Regardless of the listener’s fandom, Blessings of the Highest Order is easily one of the most gripping cover records in recent memory, if not the most.