I have something I need to get off my chest. It may see me struck from the infernal scrolls sequestered deep in the bowels of the blood drenched tombs of Ave Noctum’s citadel and then being subsequently hung, drawn and quartered (sorry, I have been overdosing on Cannibal Corpse for the least few days) but I have to say it and in retrospect, it does make me question why I laid myself prostrate at the gnarled hooves of our leader and asked him to allow me to review this latest album by Brooklyn Black Metallers Tombs. So, onward to my confession… I am not a fan of Black Metal…at all. It’s not for the want of trying, believe me, I have many friends that have castigated me, tried to cajoled and flat right god darn it, taken the absolute piss out of my non-black metal credentials. It’s just a genre that has always seemed (to me) a bit of style over substance. It’s either too fast, features too many keyboards, has too much make-up, is too samey, or too hung up (in certain quadrants by questionable beliefs both religious and political) AND is just flat right boring (mostly). I appreciate this stance is highly likely to get me into some serious trouble in these parts and I believe you me, I understand…completely.
So, to Tombs, a band formed in 2007, out of Brooklyn, New York, peddling what would at first glance, be your archetypal Black Metal band and thus of no real interest to me right? Well sort of, there are dashes of BM here, well not dashes, but large dollops of that particular sauce, pouring all over their four albums to date plus this their new album ‘Monarchy Of The Shadows’. I hear the galloping guitars, the rasped, growled and barked vocals, I luxuriate in the synths, layering doomy, atmospheric graveyard stink over proceedings like a Poundland copy of Jordan’s latest perfume and so far, so what? But, but, but…there is more to Tombs than what I see as the bland genre tropes of BM on offer here. Oh yes folks, more…much more. In the way that say Enslaved have managed to wrangle their BM influences with nuances, snippets of other genres to create something that although might be viewed by some as one paced and formulaic, is hugely entertaining and progressive to others. On songs such as ‘Necro Alchemy’ the pace slows, drops a touch, takes time to breath and adds texture, a little density and smidgeon of light amongst the shade, it all slows down a second and segues into a more trad metal stanza with overtures of sludge and doom.
The pace further slackens on next track ‘Man Behind The Sun’ which although it has all the BM motifs you may expect, slows the pace further and allows the song to gestate and mutate into something more akin to say Neurosis. Other tracks do follow the BM blueprint, and gallop along at 100mph and whilst I may not necessarily be a fan of this genre, there is no doubting the technical proficiency on offer here. Tombs have been garlanded by press and fans alike over recent years but with this new release whilst it will undoubtedly appeal and resonate with those legions of Black Metal fans Tombs will attract, there will also be a soupçon of other metal genre fans that will be drawn in by their more experimental and genre cross dressing meanderings.
(7/10 Nick Griffiths)