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Original Release Date: June 10, 2014
When one hears the term “black metal,” the first thing that springs to mind might be a bunch of guys in black leather and spikes with corpse paint, burning churches and murdering their way across Scandinavian countries. The last image that the name of this often-feared and misunderstood genre evokes would be an average-looking bunch of guys in street clothes from Brooklyn, New York. But that is exactly what Mike Hill and his band Tombs are. In fact, they are on the cutting edge of the genre.
Along with bands like Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room, Tombs are forging the next wave of black metal, much to the chagrin of the purists. Many of the old school fans of black metal are extremely closed-minded and resistant to any deviation from the formula that was laid out by Bathory over three decades ago and honed by the likes of Mayhem, Darkthrone, and the other early second wave bands of the early to mid ’90s. These are the same folks that were up in arms when Emperor introduced keyboards into the mix, or Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth took it in a symphonic direction. So you can imagine how they feel about these bands in the modern wave throwing elements of hardcore, shoe-gaze, and ambient into the blender. Deafheaven aren’t helping the cause either by choosing to sport the image of douchy hipsters, but that’s a subject for another article.
Anyway, back to the subject of Tombs. The band was formed in 2007 by singer/guitarist Mike Hill. They have, to date, issued two EPs, a compilation and three full-length albums, the latest of which is the album Savage Gold, issued on June 10th by Relapse Records.
Tombs is a band that has struggled with maintaining a consistent lineup. Hill is currently the only founding member left. The band that started as a power trio is now a quartet, rounded out by Andrew Hernandez II (drums), Garett Bussanick (guitar), and Ben Brand (bass). The new lineup seems to be working well together. Whereas the band’s previous output, while at times stellar, seemed to be struggling for a clear overall identity, Savage Gold is focused like a laser beam. The band scorches and smolders through ten of the most intense tracks to have emerged in the modern black metal scene. The lyrics throughout are dark and minimalistic without ever directly relying on the tired and overused genre staple of Satanism. They instead focus on loneliness, isolation, suicide, and the void of death providing a harrowing contrast to the brutality of the instrumentation underneath. Standout tracks include: “Portraits,” “Seance,” “Deathtripper,” and the instant classic “Edge of Darkness.” (Listen to “Edge of Darkness” here below.)
Tombs has managed to inject a breath of fresh air into a genre where stagnation runs rampant. This album is currently sitting in a second place tie with Behemoth’s masterpiece offering The Satanist on my “best of the year” list right behind Triptykon’s tour de force Melana Chasmata. Savage Gold is both savage and gold. If you’re a fan of black metal and have an open mind, you must hear this record as soon as possible!
1. “Thanatos” 4:25
2. “Portraits” 6:50
3. “Seance” 5:29
4. “Echoes” 7:56
5. “Deathtripper” 6:44
6. “Edge of Darkness” 5:28 (listen below)
7. “Ashes” 5:03
8. “Legacy” 4:18
9. “Severed Lives” 4:42
10. “Spiral” 6:17
Total length: 57:12
Album rating 9.0 out of 10