Tombs are a funny sort of band. Deliciously hard to pigeonhole, they’ve shared stages with Isis, Buried Inside (Ishmael were also privileged enough to join the Plymouth leg of that tour, where Tombs bassist Carson James thoroughly charmed your reporter’s very own mother) and even Singaporean grinders Wormrot to ply their cerebral yet heavy-as-hell noise. In four short years the Brooklyn trio have given us two EPs and now three full-length albums of elaborate and coal-black metal. With an output as prolific as that, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Tombs just toss out any old racket to amuse their fans but this is not the case. They’re a busy bunch for sure but this will need as much concentration as you can muster so casual listeners or fans of the throwaway, walk on.
‘Black Hole of Summer’ opens the album in deafening form and its steady, driving rhythm slams itself repeatedly into the listener’s face before Mike Hill’s ragged roar booms through the cacophony to finally scare them into submission. Roughly two and a half minutes in, the song blooms into chilling atmospherics before colliding into a neck-snapping finale reminscent of Neurosis‘ more apocalyptic moments. Following track ‘To Cross The Land’ comes on like a black metal Cult (or should that be Kvlt?) of Luna, beginning with sparse and resonant chords, picking up a tense drum beat along the way and then kicking in with an almighty roar.
This is not an album of highs and lows; rather look at it as an album of lows and absolute depths. Even the post-punk dynamic of tracks like ‘Silent World’ and the Mastodon-esque ‘Black Heaven’ is tempered by mournful sung vocals and an eventual drag back to the depths of despondence like the harpooned Moby Dick hauling Ahab to his watery grave. And the shimmering ‘Passageways’ has a wrenching melancholy to it, all doleful vocals and lamenting guitar underpinned by the stolid rhythm section of Carson James and Andrew Hernandez. But certain points in the album tear it away from being just another post-metal album – the simple but stunning moment at 1:30 of ‘Constellations’ is a glorious reminder that there’s more to Tombs than shades of grey, unleashing a metronomic chug that will snap your neck.
You will know when you listen to Path of Totality why it’s taken me an age to review. Believe that it’s a damn fine album, but don’t get bogged down in trying to define it because, to be honest, trying to summarise it is like shutting your eyes and sticking a pin into a list of genres. Fans of Lair Of The Minotaur and Mastodon will particularly approve, which points you in the rough direction of where the album sits in the labyrinth that is the metal genre. Just buy it and bask in how the crystalline production gives you all of the filthy black metal feel and sludgy crunch without compromising the more delicate aspects of the music, enjoy the majestic lows and… er… lowers, and above all, pay close attention to Tombs before they end up being snapped up by the gravy trains of mainstream metal festivals and MTV2 recognition.