(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Toronto’s Tomb Mold, which will be released on July 19 by 20 Buck Spin.)
Manor of Infinite Forms was overrated.
There, I said it.
But wait… put down your pitchforks and douse your torches and let me explain.
Manor of Infinite Forms is, undoubtedly, a great album. So much so that I included it on my list of “Great” albums from 2018.
But the sheer volume (both in size and loudness) of hype it received in certain quarters of the Metalsphere always felt a little excessive to me, as if a good proportion of the Metal press had somehow lost all sense of independence or objectivity and gotten themselves caught up in an endless feedback loop, constantly echoing and amplifying one another’s opinions with increasingly ludicrous amounts of exaggeration and embellishment.
It also didn’t/doesn’t give these writers and critics much room to manoeuvre. After all, if Manor… really was the greatest thing to happen to Death Metal since the late ’80s (spoiler: it’s not) then what happens if the band’s follow-up is somehow even better (spoiler: it is)?
That’s something which other sites are going to have to reckon with on their own terms and in their own time, of course. Here at NCS, however, we’re faced with no such dilemma, and can state, with confidence, that Planetary Clairvoyance is exactly the sort of album to justify all the hype and excess praise which surrounded its predecessor’s release, even to the point of making that album seem, retroactively, like a mere stepping-stone on the band’s path towards something truly great.
Again, I don’t mean to run down Manor of Infinite Forms or denigrate anyone who loves that album. It’s simply that Planetary… is just that little bit sharper, that little bit smarter, and that little bit stronger – in practically every aspect – that it’s almost impossible (for me anyway) not to compare the two and find the former just that little bit lacking.
Of course in the grand scheme of things this is really just an argument about what separates an 8 out of 10 from a 9 out of 10, so it’s not like you should all be rushing out to burn all your copies of the band’s previous records in favour of “the one true Tomb Mold”.
Instead, why not join me in celebrating all the little ways in which the Canadian quartet have tweaked and improved their sound this time around?
Obviously the band’s primary touchstones – basically a three-way tie between Demilich, Incantation, and Autopsy – remain pretty much the same, but the more time I spend with it the more I become aware of all the ways in which Planetary Clairvoyance is notably, albeit subtly, proggier than its predecessor, showcasing an evolution in dynamics and composition which reminds me of the organic growth shown by Death between Spiritual Healing and Human, or the brilliant redefinition of Carcass, circa-Necroticsm…
Heck, there are even moments where the barbed technicality of the riffage puts me in mind of classic Mithras or latter-day Zealotry, which (as I’m sure you’re aware) is no bad thing!
Whether it’s the electrifying energy and relentless momentum of massive opener “Beg for Life”, the gruesome grooves and spiteful melodies of “Infinite Resurrection”, or the labyrinthine metallic malevolence of closer “Heat Death”, pretty much everything about Planetary Clairvoyance represents a band finally growing into their full promise and potential.
It’s more than just Manor… 2.0, it’s a stunning affirmation of the band’s standing as one of Death Metal’s modern-day big-hitters, as well as a visceral repudiation of everyone (myself included) who may have doubted the band’s brutal bona fides before now!