The music of Tombs cannot be classified into one, or even two groups of music. The blending of styles creates an avant-garde element to their work, generating a blackened sludge atmosphere that at once lingers and attacks with doom-like aggression. In their fourth studio release, The Grand Annihilation (Metal Blade), the band evolves their unique sound too esoteric levels. While there is plenty of aggression and drive in speed, Tombs creates a mystic aura around each song, luring the listener deeper into a journey of inner philosophy. The Grand Annihilation not only stands as Tombs most superbly crafted album, but also as one of the most creative, magical, and intriguing works of this year.
Tombs frontman Mike Hill states the record is all about discovering the freedom of life through darkness, and venturing down the path of enlighten that it can offer. The theme is truly that which honors the core of black metal philosophy, the idea of the outsider seeking truth, freedom, and grasping at one’s destiny. To strengthen these themes, Hill and the gang create a vast collection of music that embodies the feelings of wandering and darkness. Distortion flows through crawling moments of guitar, shifting into crunchy churns that flow into sinister rhythms. The drums and bass come with a somber approach that lurk throughout each track, taking on moments to erupt with chaos. The vocals give off a blend of doom-like lows, along with sharp black metal highs.
With a streaming twilight tone in the guitar, opening track “Black Sun Horizon” blazes forward, the drums clashing away. The track beams with darkness crawling from under the light, the instrumental elements shifting from moody lows, rising back to their pummeling speeds. “Old Wounds” brings forth more of a prominent bright rhythm in the guitar, primarily taking on center stage with the raging vocals. Drum work goes from straight forward bashing adrenaline, to loosening up into more of a playful pattern that goes in different directions. Towards the end, the song tosses in a cold solo, ending things on a black and despair drifting feeling. “November Wolves” follows this with ambient noise, lingering about until the guitar kicks in. With a sludgy churn, the song maintains a solid rhythm for most of its progression. The thick mud-like notes eventually give way to hazy vocals that bring forward brighter guitar tones, creating an aura of twilight.
The Grand Annihilation superbly captures a sense of existential mystery within its overall looming sounds. Where the faster tracks already give off a vibe of intrigue and mysticism, the slower material is just as enchanting. “Walk With Me In Nightmares” crawls in its progression, its lyrics haunting and permeating with eeriness. Lines such as, “The moon is low in the sky/ I can feel the pull,” are able to create a physical sense within the listener. This is due to the persistent droning blackness, its meditative quality luring the listener into an inner state of mesmerizing peace, transporting their mind to the place of the story. “Saturnalian” picks up the pace a bit more, but maintains an element of that droning blackened doom. The vocals take on an evil presence in their bass heavy richness, adding a gothic touch to the tone. The song vibrates with a powerful fuzz in the bass, the drum work pacing itself in each beat. “Temple Of Mars” concludes in this same manner, the guitar sound coming forth with a somber brightness. Blast beats kick alongside a hypnotic guitar rhythm, generating feelings of dread, anxiety, and wonder.
The way this band combine their instrumental components to give off such a variety of sound and immense atmosphere is astounding. Metal has a special gift in stirring many questions that a lot of music backs away from. The Grand Annihilation is one of those works that asks some of those powerful questions, and does so while sounding damn awesome. Raging vocals come forth with guitar work that exudes brilliant chemistry in each song. Along with drum and bass work that provides a foundation of heaviness and noise, the instrumentation comes together to create a presence of blackened distortion that flows throughout the album. Tombs has brilliantly outdone themselves, giving off the finest production of their career so far. The record is full to the brim of chaos and mystery in its esoteric aura. The Grand Annihilation makes for a magical treat, leading one on a path of enlightenment through darkness.