Monday, October 3, 2011

Record Review: TOMBS "Path of Totality" (Relapse Records)

TOMBS have an awesome new album on Relapse Records entitled Path of Totality. Check out the following review by Rigas and find out why this record should accompany the upcoming fall/winter.
What's next in 2011’s blender?!  There is a lot of good stuff out there at the moment, so let’s check directly Tombs’ latest release. Tombs come from Brooklyn are quite known in U.S. underground, most notably for their granite sound and crushing live performances. The band carries on in a string of good releases, following ‘Winter Hours’ in 2009. This is their sophomore full-length (and by far their longest), with the ‘total’ title ‘Path of Totality’. The band has also scored a self-titled EP in 2007 and a split with Planks in 2008.

The song ‘To cross the land’ sounds like Neurosis jamming with Darkthrone with vocals varying from desperate early Isis shouts to growls and more black infused screams. It starts with an atmospheric intro reminiscent of Isis/Neurosis but more pale and ‘colorless’ to be followed soon by black metal riffing to finish in a doom and discordant mode.  I consider this the first ‘real’ song, because ‘Black Hole of Summer’ is more like an opener where the dynamics of the band are presented, but there is nothing  substantial there (filler?). The keys used there are not such a good idea according to my taste and I am glad I did not listen to them again throughout the record (only at the very end).

The third number, ‘Constellations’, marks the first affiliation with hardcore punk that incorporates a brutal hardcore riff from late 90’s era.  ‘Bloodletters’ is a harvest of so many styles like death/black metal – post rock – hardcore, yet Tombs manage all this quite skillfully. This scenario pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album with songs ranging from 3 to 7 minutes. I should mention ‘Cold Dark Eyes’ which is a highlight song that culminates at an amazing melody (akin to Red Sparowes, Explotions in the Sky, Godspeed you black emperor!). What is interesting here is that they arrive to this melody after black metal and crushing mid-tempos, whereas their post rock colleagues would climax there after acoustic calm passages.  ‘Black Heaven’ and ‘Red Shadows’ are also exciting songs.

TOMBS: Happy

The black metal parts seem to have become a trademark of their music after the 2008’s split, although this time sound a bit more neat and cozy. The band is influenced predominantly from black metal (but stripped down to fit with the other genres) and Neurosis/early Isis with a touch of Red Sparrowes in the melodies. To a lesser extend, we could trace back influences from clevocore sound (most notably Integrity) and newer bands like Cursed, Rise and Fall, Trap Them etc. This heavy/dark hardcore sound is growing with more bands emerging (Oathbreaker, All Pigs Must Die etc.). I can also find artistic similarities (e.g. dark image, serious dedication) to other genre-defying bands like Unearthly Trance and Dephosphorus. I have the feeling that Justin Broadrick would be smiling listening to the wall of sound this band can build. The difference with other hardcore acts is that they have an expansive sound where even the sparse (dark and bitter) melodies are let to breathe. Anyways, Tombs is more a metal band it seems.

The production from John Congleton (Baroness, Explosions in the Sky) is good, dark but warm with the necessary depth. I would prefer it a bit more rough (which would strengthen the black metal side of the group), but I also acknowledge the difficulty of harbouring all these different styles while maintaining a cohesive sound. The vocals, which are above average, vary greatly from black (sometimes reminding some Rotting Christ growls) to deep goth-style. It is one of the few occasions that variation works positive for the band (I am really tired of the clean/brutal plastic vox!). The desperate shouts ala Isis (Celestial era) is my personal fav. The lyrics are dark, bleak and uncanny forecasting the doomsday. I really enjoy the sound of the drums while drumming is smashing, tight and clever.

The album comes also in double LP from Relapse records. The beautiful cover is created by Thomas Hooper. The album calls for those that look beyond trends and seek for original heaviness. On the other hand, this record gives me the feeling that the sound of Tombs is yet to be completed

Do you like Tomb’s ‘Path of totality’ cover? Find out more about Thomas Hooper (NYC):

Check out more visual artists related to new cult bands:

Glyn ‘Scrawled’ Smyth:

Viral Graphics (Athens, GR):

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