Review: Tombs ‘Under Sullen Skies’

Frontman Mike Hill (guitars/vocals/electronics/synth) seems to have graduated from the Henry Rollins school of work ethics. Not only is he a member of several bands (too many to list here), he is CEO for Savage Gold Coffee, is the host of the Everything Went Black, Metal Matters and Necromaniacs podcasts, and is a journalist who covers music and MMA fighting. Mike is joined by Matt Medeiros – guitars, Drew Murphy – bass/vocals and Justin Spaeth – drums/guitars/ electronics/synth and originate from Brooklyn, New York. The album is the follow-up to February’s Monarchy Of Shadows EP.

Tombs 'Under Sullen Skies'

The title is an allusion to the crazy post-apocalyptic world we’re living in, as well as the feeling of gloom and depression surrounding it, while the artwork highlights this further with the particularly ominous skyline. The album starts with Bone Furnace, an uncompromising  no nonsense slice of black metal which reminded me of 1349, with the band sounding like they’re trying to evoke the legions of hell.

Void Constellation slows the pace and takes a doomier approach with some brutal death metal style vocals, the overall effect akin to fellow New Yorkers Incantation. Barren recalls the coldness of vintage Darkthrone, around the time of Under A Funeral Moon, the track has an NWOBHM melodic section, which despite not being a fan of the genre, it in my opinion, works. Mike is quoted as saying the track is one of the strongest on the album and I’d be inclined to agree.

The Hunger starts with goth style synth work before some mid paced chugging hardcore hones into view and sees an appearance by Integrity legend Dwid Helion on backing vocals. The band take an experimental route with Secrets Of The Black Sun that recalls the psychedelic post-metal of Neurosis, tribal drumming in tow while Descensum marks the halfway point and reminds one a little of Gorguts’ latter day avant-garde detours on Obscura and Pleidas’ Dust. As with the preceding number it rocks like a mother and is unafraid of venturing into progressive/psychedelic realms.

This was my first outing with Tombs and I felt it struck a nice balance between experimentation and all out asskicking black metal…

We Move Like Phantoms reminds one of Celtic Frost with its Wagnerian bombast, and at over a mere minute and a half, would have made for a great album opener. Mordum lays down a steady groove that reminds me of the doomier moments from Autopsy’s Mental Funeral, without doubt that band’s finest hour.  The band return to full-speed with Lex Talionis, featuring some extraordinary drumming from Justin Spaeth. His playing is of such intensity you’d be forgiven for thinking Mortician styled drum programming were used, as opposed to an actual human being, such is the level of control and skill.

Angel Of Darkness features moody electronica and a spoken word intro (the latter courtesy of Cat Cabral) giving the track a deathrock flavour, before leading into gothic tinged atmospheric black metal. Sombre Ruin lives up to its name, possibly the darkest track on the album that reminded me of Swans’ Cop and Einstürzende Neubauten’s Kollaps, the relentless industrial pounding offering no hope for the future to the listener. The aptly named Plague Years mirrors Bone Furnace and brings the album full circle, making for a truly apocalyptic conclusion to the album.

This was my first outing with Tombs and I felt it struck a nice balance between experimentation and all out asskicking black metal. This is a record that could appeal to both old and new school followers of the genre, as it incorporates a range of musical styles with subtlety and intelligence, yet never once compromises on savagery.

Label: Season of Mist
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills