(This is Wil Cifer‘s review of the new album by Tombs, which will be released by Season of Mist on November 20th.)
I am going to assume that since Mike Hill has been pumping it out with this project for 13 years you know what Tombs is about. If you have read my reviews before, then you know darkness is what I am listening for when it comes to any genre of music. Hill delivers darkness in full here.
Flanked by the same line up that played on the Monarchy of Shadows EP, the band open with the almost thrash-tinged Swedish touch to black metal. In the first song alone (“Bone Furnace”) there are almost all the staples of their sound. A more overt metal chugging powers “Void Constellation”. The songs have a more focused and hooky bite than what I remember coming from the Monarchy of Shadows EP. They have certainly retained the dense guitar sound they have had since The Grand Annihilation.
photo by Dan Higgins
There are numerous guest guitarists dropping in for solos, the most notable being the one on “Barren” courtesy of Ray Suhy from Six Feet Under. The song is somewhat typical black metal before taking a shift into gloom after the solo. “The Hunger” is one of the album’s most impressive songs in terms of hooky songwriting. It does not matter how heavy an album is, if it doesn’t make you want to listen to it time and time again then what’s the point? Also, Dwid from Integrity contributes vocals on what would be the chorus and sounds just like Lemmy.
While they have flirted with it in the past, they dig into death rock with more committed fervor on “Secrets of the Black Sun”. This is a crushing wave of darkness that is more sonically intense than metal… and Sera Timms from Ides of Gemini contributes ghostly backing vocals. This adds an even more eerie texture before they come crashing in with a more doom-tinged take on black metal. “Descensum” finds them hanging on doomy chords with double-bass flowing under it until it kicks into black metal. There is both dissonance and a low creepy vocal to keep it from the realm of your average blasty mcnasty.
Meanwhile, “We Move Like Phantoms ” works off a cool staccato groove, and while there are undertones of doom throughout the album you can also hear some hardcore influence on “Mordum”. Not surprising after all — Dwid is on the album. The vocal delivery is very metal. The chug it carries is pretty powerful.
“Rex Talionis” has great lyrics. Shaking your fist at the empty sky while waiting for the end is certainly fitting for today’s climate. Celebrity witch and actress Kat Cabral does a spoken-word piece during the intro to the simmering blackness that is “Angel of Darkness”. “Sombre Ruin” conjures an even more crushing darkness than the one they gave us on “Secrets of the Black Sun”. It drones on the ritualistic pound. “The Plague Years” ends the album with a triumphant thrash feel.
Hill should count this album as a wonderful success. It works well when compared to their already impressive body of work. If you are a fan of this band, then you rest assured this is the unified vision of what they do compacted into these songs, but with different shading, so it does not feel like they are making the same album twice.