(We continue a week-long run of reviews by DGR, and this one takes stock of the latest release by the always-interesting NY crew Tombs.)
Tombs have made a name for themselves as more than just a black metal collective out of the East Coast. Whether through the rotating cast of band members or influences pulled from all around the underground scene, Mike Hill and gang have absorbed a lot more into their sound, evolving Tombs past a post-metal/black metal hybrid and into an art collective where you never fully know what to expect next.
Tombs have kept busy as well, especially in recent years, because, save for 2019, every year has seen some sort of release from them, whether it be an EP, full-length, compilation, or a single. There’s always something to keep them out there and show that maybe the constant refresh works for them.
Mid-June of 2022 saw the release of the latest addition to the group’s collective musical works with the EP Ex Oblivion, which contains one new song, one ambient block of experimentation, a remix/housewrecking of a track from Under Sullen Skies, and two cover tracks – for a combined total of three cover songs within the last year, if you caught their cover of Samhain‘s “The Shift” in 2021 – for twenty-two minutes of music.
photo by Scott Kinkade
Tombs are a band where the cover versions they kick out are usually just as interesting as the original material they’re covering. The Tombs funnel that the original song gets pulled through and spit out of the other side results in some interesting experimentation, and though the band do play it straight with some of them, at the very least you’re guaranteed a much uglier version than the original. It’s probably why the band have been keen to keep busy with them over the past few years on top of their own work.
That said, it’s hard to imagine a band could feasibly ugly-up a GG Allin song more than it already is, but “Commit Suicide” is still going to turn a few heads in the lineup given the material surrounding it. Tombs take the song and keep it lo-fi, making it sound like it was recorded from the back of a venue, speed it up a bit – which metal bands love to do in covers – and then beat the hell out of it. It’s also a tiny bit under two minutes long, which makes for a fun swing given the five-minute epic before it in Motörhead‘s “Killed By Death” – which is one of the times where Tombs play it pretty straight with their covers. Motörhead have a million opportunities to break out the punk drumbeat in their discography too, so it’s an inspired choice, that Tombs went with the dirtier groove of “Killed By Death” rather than have a seven-minute block of circle-pit drumming and guitar riffing dead center of their EP.
However the back two songs of Ex Oblivion are a bit harder to describe given that “Murder Legendre” (which features Dwid from Integrity) is mostly a haunting ambient piece and the song prior to it is an industrialized and trip-hopped-out take on the song “Sombre Ruin”. As mentioned before, Tombs have the freedom to do a whole lot with their work and you never really know what to expect, so this sort of thing fits within the confines of Ex Oblivion. It certainly makes the dynamic of the whole EP odd though, since it starts off with the intense and grooving “Ex Oblivion” song – almost on Khold‘s level of low-end heavy – replete with haunted vocals and an extra layer of distortion as Tombs are want to do.
Two cover tracks and then two hard shifts into a slow fade, like drowning in electronics. It’s a strange dynamic and it makes Ex Oblivion a strange EP as a whole. The overall experience is an interesting trip since it’s a partial snapshot into where the minds of the band are at the moment, but it’s surprisingly not as intense as something you might expect from them. If anything it seems as if Ex Oblivion is Tombs giving the impression of being distant and disconnected, an auditory depression made into EP form and one that feels like them expelling some musical ideas that’ve been possessing them for a long time now.