• Tombs – Savage Gold

    Tombs – Savage Gold
    Released by: Relapse Records
    Releasing on: June 10th, 2014.
    Purchase From Amazon

    This new album from Brooklyn, New York’s Tombs features of vocalist/guitar player Mike Hill (the only original member since the band formed in 2007), guitar player Garett Bussanick, bass player Ben Brand and drummer Andrew Hernandez II. Never heard of Tombs before? They’re a metal band on Relapse so that’ll tell you something… but given how diverse Relapse’s roster can be (and say what you will, it IS diverse) it doesn’t tell you a whole lot. So throw any other preconceived notion you might have out the window, because this album, their third full length (though they also have a few EPs out there, which were collected on the Fear Is The Weapon album in 2010), mixes things up in really interesting ways. But make no mistake, this is a metal album through and through, and a really interesting (and good!) one at that.

    If The Birthday Party and The Fall got together with High On Fire and Mastodon and created some sort of horrifyingly awesome hybrid of heroin infused art rock mixed with proggy stoner riffs and doom style rhythmic pounding, it might (and we say might, because really this is all up in the air, these guys have a unique sound) like this record. It starts off with Thanatos, which is not really all that outside the box. It’s heavy, riff-tastic, the vocals are intense, the music doesn’t really stop. The second track is more interesting as Portraits starts off with some super fast drumming and equally quick guitar work that then slows down just a bit to get into a bit of a groove before the vocals come in and really ramp up the intensity. There’s a groove here, not the kind you necessarily want to shake your ass to but it’s there and it works while the drums just keep pounding and pounding and pounding almost (but not quite) burying everything else. It’s pretty wild.

    Oh yeah, the complete track listing for the album? Normally we’d announce that earlier but here it is:

    Thanatos / Portraits / Seance / Echoes / Deathtripper / Edge Of Darkness / Ashes / Legacy / Severed Lives / Spiral

    So yeah, after having been pummeled by Portraits, we move onto Séance, a song about ‘the serpent’s eyes’ and the evil that all of that entails. It sort of carries over the darker themes of the first two songs (the first being about ‘our savage gold/the living dark’ and the second being about the ‘landscape dark alone’ – ‘we are dust in infinity’ not exactly happy feel good music) deals with immortality or the lack thereof. It opens with a guitar/drum speed combo reminiscent Portraits but slows down just a little bit to find that groove and once again settle into an infectiously heavy tempo that demands you listen and pay attention.

    Track four, Echoes, starts off a little more languidly with a far less intense pace. The lyrics are more ‘sung’ and less ‘screamed’ and maybe it sounds a little bit like Joy Division as Hill sings about turning to dust. But then, after that slower start, the heaviness comes at you full force and the guitars and drums pick up the pace with the bass playing anchoring things really effectively. It slows down and speeds up a few times before hitting a blistering crescendo at just before the four minute mark (this is a long song at over eight minutes long) after which is goes back to the slow/fast mix up until the ominous finale that leads straight into the six minute plus Deathtripper. This one is where you hear the Birthday Party/The Fall influence more so than the first on the first tracks. The tempo here is languid, the lyrics discuss suicide and fear and the whole thing has the feeling of a bad drug trip. Is that a good thing? In the context of the mood that the band has created here, yes. Again, this isn’t feel good music, instead it’s dark, brooding and emotionally involving and Deathtripper might be the best example of how Tombs brings all of that together with their music.

    Edge Of Darkness, bringing us past the half way mark, speeds things up in a big way. This is a metal song through and through, it hits you in the face as soon as it starts and is pounds its way into your head the way a good metal song should. The guitar solo early on is slick and dirty and while it slows down a bit when the vocals come in this is definitely one of the more traditional metal tracks on the album and a nice stand out on an admittedly impressive collection of songs. Ashes follows suit nicely, it’s just a few seconds past the five minute mark work of fast, fast, fast drumming and bass work with some rhythmic guitar bringing the vocals in and helping to anchor them. There’s a really strong, defiant sound here, it’s not abrasive or over the top but neither is it too polished, slick or progged out (which you’ll definitely hear at the 2:50 mark where it just blasts you). This leads flawlessly into Legacy, as the album draws closer to its finish. A blistering guitar/drum/bass attack for a bit before the vocals growl and screech their way into the mix. Lyrically we’re staying in a dark place as Hill shrieks about how we should ‘cast away our mortal form’ before we get a lengthy guitar solo bringing us into the chorus. At 4:19 this is the shortest track on the album and in a lot of ways it is the heaviest and darkest track on the album as well.

    The penultimate track, Severed Lives, starts off with that Birthday Party influence, a slow bass rhythm with some otherworldly vocals almost crooning over top. Lyrically this is just as dark as the first eight tracks, but it has that Cave/Pew/Howard sort of sound going for it, even as it builds in intensity and gets noticeably heavier just past the one minute mark. It stays fairly slow and dirgy, hitting a drone that draws you in almost hypnotically while Hill’s hissed vocals let you in on something you probably shouldn’t know about… because it’s evil!

    This leads into the last track on the album, Spiral. Again, lyrically, it’s about leaving this plane, about doing the ‘scorpion dance’ to ‘leave this poison life’ and about assembling your final thoughts before the darkness calls. It harkens back to the heavier, earlier tracks on the album with pounding drums and fast, layered guitar work laying the foundation for the gritty, tortured vocals that Hill provides. At over six minutes it is a lengthy track and it just builds and builds for the first couple of minutes and as is draws to a close, even if Hill’s vocals get a bit more sane, it maintains that dark tone, that aura of impending doom. This is seriously good stuff – it’s intense, it’s dark, it’s brooding, but it’s also musically and vocally impressive and performed with great skill. There’s admirable power behind this recording, the kind that demands serious and dedicated repeat listens to really grasp the technique and the intent behind the obvious darkness. A very solid, heavy album that leaves quite a lasting impression.