There’s a bit of a back story if one is to understand my emotional and musical relationship – and review – with Brooklyn’s reigning champions of chaos, Tombs newest EP All Empires Fall. Up until their recent tour alongside Full of Hell and Nordic peddlers of cosmic-doom 1349, Tombs and I really never clicked. Which is odd, considering my taste in music. On paper, we should have been engaged in a long, torrid love affair. Me, eagerly scrambling and delving into the sound that they’ve carved out of their spiritual granite, Tombs providing the musical drug that would leave me in withdrawal as each day passed by without a new album. But for whatever reason, there was never any real moment where Tombs and I just met eye to eye in terms of me being a banner-touting, Molotov Cocktail-tossing fan – a fact that changed upon seeing them in the live setting. With the whispers of them dropping new material and a revamped line-up, Tombs delivered such a phenomenal, emotionally-charged set that I was left clenching my asshole and lamenting how I should have just given them another spin over the years to see if anything connected.
So, dear CVLT Nation readers and fellow Tombs fans, hopefully now we’re all on the same page. From here on out, this review is based on me splurging upon their previous releases and balancing that out with my own internal hype for the new songs I had heard that night. Some of you might have heard a few choice, select tracks off their newest EP released by the always profane, Relapse Records. The real question, though, is how does this relate to their previous works and perhaps even future endeavors? For those looking to hear a throwback to early era Tombs, be warned. This EP straddles a completely different creative output. And for those who are eager to hear the evolution of Tombs after Savage Gold, well, your patience is about to be well rewarded.
With the addition of Fade Kainer (Batillus), Evan Void (Hivelords) and Charli Schmid (Vaura), Mike Hill has pushed the boundaries on All Empires Fall that Tombs has come to be known for. As a whole, these five songs stand as a twisted experiment in the realm of Black Metal. One that vaults the listener into an unexplored galaxy of Hill and his fellow compatriots design. The first track, an instrumental number entitled “The World is Made of Fire,” sets the tone for the rest of the album. With its crushing guitar work that moves over your body like a tank, it’s very apparent that Tombs mean business. The massive, first proper song on here, “Obsidian” punches its way out of the speakers and straight down to the core of the earth. Even considering the back catalog of Tombs, “Obsidian” might stand as one of the most crushing and neck-breaking songs they’ve ever put down.
Easily the most striking new persona and element added to Tombs is the technomancer Fade Kainer. The addition of “true” backing vocals and synthesizers adds such a dynamic effect and change of pace to each song. Hill himself had hinted at such developments and ideas on previous works, but this new relationship really, really pushes Tombs sound into a new realm. After the devastating gauntlet that is “Obsidian,” Tombs show off the fruits of their newly developed and revamped line up. “Last Days of Sunlight” conjures up heavy influences of Neurosis and Swans, while all along still maintaining the band’s actual sound and identity. A heavy, slowed-down track driven by bass player Ben Brands’ hauntingly rich tone, Kainer’s massive wave of sounds and the almost monk-like singing of Hill. In particular, Hill shows a sound and voice never really seen before on anything he’s done. To move away from the typical screeching and rage-bellowed screams that have long been a comfortable tool takes some courage, but outright stepping away and going for such a Gothic tone and change was a risk – one that pays off in huge dividends for the evolution of Tombs from here on out.
Label: Relapse Records
As “Last Days of Sunlight” played out in a spectacularly crushing fashion, one fact became very evident to me. All Empires Fall is Tombs taking a giant step forward. While still cemented in Hill’s previous explorations, the revamped lineup has thrown in key players that are helping propel his vision forward. “Last Days” sounds like something off of Savage Gold, but also has the fingerprints of Kainer and the other new members, the end result being a familiar assault, yet strangely fresh and welcoming. Which leads us into the final song, the appropriately titled show-stopper “V.” Yet again showcasing the Bauhaus / Sisters of Mercy-styled clean singing, “V” left me utterly floored at its depth and texture. While having this incredibly rich occult vibe to the lyrics and vocal work, the actual music itself is perhaps the most eyebrow-raising, fist pumping track on this album. In regards to the new singing style, Hill could have gone the typical route of using Death / Black Metal vocals, but his inclusion and development of a different vocal style, accompanied by Kainer’s backing vitriol, makes this song stand out as the gem of the album, and perhaps even a portent as to what the future might hold.
After my time with All Empires Fall, it became very clear to me what was transpiring. Mike Hill, alongside this new cast, is taking this project into uncharted waters. They’ve shed the skin of previous bodies of work and thrown in their collective skills and ideas, cultivated from all of their previous bands and projects. While this EP is massive in its sound and delivery, it had me aching to hear a full length, one that will hopefully encompass this new found vision and permanent line up. Because as it stands, this is the most ferocious and savage Tombs has ever sounded.