On Path of Totality, their sophomore disc for Relapse records, Brooklyn’s Tombs offer up a dark sonic vision that is both brutal and beautiful. While the band is rooted in the world of black metal, what elevates it above that often tedious and monolithically monotonous genre is the constant musical crossbreeding that Tombs engage in.
Singer, guitarist and Tombs band leader Mike Hill is an unabashed fan of much of the “alternative” sounds of the 1980s and 1990s, and thus influences ranging from industrialists Godflesh and SWANS to gothic faves like The Cure and Joy Division are allowed to bleed into Tombs' blackened metal anthems. This creates moody atmospheres that contrast with, and thus ultimately enhance, the band’s overall attack (and that confuses the hell out of reviewers who only listen to black metal and nothing else).
While on songs like Path Of Totality's roaring "Black Hole of Summer," Hill does offer up the genre's requisite growly vocals, these sound more like Matt Pike’s sub-Lemmy hoarse croak or Justin Broadrick's Godflesh bellows than they do The Cookie Monster. And on excellent tracks like “Passageways” and “Silent World,” Hill – a fan of the melodious pipes of goth metal master Glenn Danzig – submits more tuneful, dark vocal stylings that recall Broadrick’s ethereal post-Godflesh outfit, Jesu.
Elsewhere, tracks like “Constellation,” “Bloodletters,” and “Vermillion” combine the fury of black metal with Sonic Youth-style chiming guitar textures that transport the listener, rather than deaden his or her senses.
Overall, Tombs’ openness to musical experimentation makes Path Of Totality an exciting and engaging experience from beginning to end, suggesting that this band has still only begun on what should be a very interesting and rewarding artistic journey.
--Johnny "Gutter" Walker