Tombs – Savage Gold | Review

By this point learned metalheads shouldn't have to be told that Tombs are a top-shelf act. Their coming out party, 2011's Path of Totality, was even named Decibel Magazine's Album of the Year. The NY quartet carry over the qualities that lead to that album's critical success on their latest transmission of darkness, Savage Gold.

For this release mainman Mike Hill (vocals/guitars) is once again joined by drummer extraordinaire Andrew Hernandez as well as newcomers Ben Brand (bass, ex-Woe) and Flourishing guitarist Garrett Bussanick. Despite the member turnover this unit perform as a potent force.

The lyrical themes of Path carry over to Savage Gold as well. Unlike much typical black metal there's no mention of any cloven-hoofed worship, no admonishment of belief systems and no revelling in the glory of nature. Hill focuses more on darkness and death. His vocals may be beastly and muscularly dynamic but nearly always discernible.

His ruminations are deep and philosophical; the product of a mind that never idles. A general feeling is that of acceptance to death's inevitability, yet there is still a fear of succumbing to its clutches. Heavy topics sure, but as David Gold (Woods of Ypres), whatever-you-believe-in rest his soul, said, “Only death is real.”

Hill's thought provoking words are delicate on paper but betrayed by the fierce savagery with which he delivers them. Such existential musing must be accompanied by equally dark music and the multi-layered black metal Tombs excel at is plenty dark. Their sonic palette consists of shades of black but Savage Gold is painted with rich, emotional textures. Scorching black metal blasts play a big part but as much as tunnelling through the depths draws the listener in, it's the moments where Tombs slacken the pace and open up that really cut to the core. It's like seeing through the savagery and blind rage of a razorbacked beast to the tortured soul that lies within.

Hill's gruff and gravelly bellows and rasps express torment over painful melodies on “Seance”. The track works in an almost sludgy vibe but also some of the best windswept tremolos and punishing blasts on the album. Each shift in tempo and mood is met with the same sense of importance and awe.

That's just one example of how well Tombs are able to play with dynamics. Cascading melodies create atmosphere. Hypnotic brooding dulls the senses. Death metal sensibilities crush the skull. Pulverizing chaos, lumbering gait, serpentine movements and mesmerizing guitar interplay blur the edges of reality.

Savage Gold coils around the listener like the tempting serpent. The grip of the experimental blackness is inescapably deadly. It's a captivating album that beats you senseless one moment and carries you among the clouds the next. It's powerful, chilling, exhausting, encapsulating and irresistible. Among the wealth of excellent bands releasing albums this year, Tombs will once again shine amongst the brightest.

Matt Hinch

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Matt Hinch lives an unassuming life on the backroads outside Forest Mills, Ontario, Canada. He packs in as much metal as he possible can amid factory work, raising three daughters with his wife and working the land. In addition to Scratch the Surface Matt also writes for Hellbound, Metal Bandcamp, About Heavy Metal and his own blog, Kingdom of Noise.
Keep up with him on Twitter @KingdomofNoise.