Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tombs - 'Path of Totality'

Brooklyn sludge/post-metal act Tombs has emerged as a band that consistently betters itself, and thankfully so. While I was intrigued by the group’s seminal effort Winterhours, I found myself still slightly underwhelmed by the effort. What I realize now is that Tombs are essentially a meeting point of metal subgenres, but at the time I could only compare them to other bands. Baroness was harder. Jesu was more droning. My Bloody Valentine was louder.

But what they set out to do on Winterhours, and more successfully accomplish on their new album Path of Totality, was combine these elements. The result is a record that combines thrash, death, and sludge metal with a dash of shoegaze into something that’ll probably warrant a name of its own one day. Path is heavy as fuck for sure, but certain sections

In his book This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, Daniel J. Levitin argued, among other things, that genres have way more in common that fans are willing to admit, provided you actually look for the connections. In Tombs case, while they showcase enough elements of hipster metal, they should certainly still appeal to the hardened metalhead.

The record opens with a whole lot of dissonance on “Black Hole of Summer;” the song proper doesn’t begin until a minute in. Up until that point, it’s all cymbals and guitar noise. Then the Cookie Monster vocals kick in. Indeed, Tombs nearly approach metal’s easiest points to satire, from the gruff vox to the absurd, nightmarish lyrics. But they add so much texture that these things become strengths. This would be a different band altogether if it had cleaner singing, and honestly, the lyrics aren’t too important in this kind of music.

From the opener on, Path never lets up, but it does shift genres. Sometimes it gets thrasier (“To Cross the Land”), sometimes it gets sludgier (“Cold Dark Eyes”), and sometimes it even echos Bauhaus (“Passageways”) for shits and/or giggles. But the record still forms a cohesive whole. Tombs has finally reached what it set out to do; hopefully even better things are waiting in the not too distant future.

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