Death Becomes Tombs on ‘Savage Gold,’ A Lean Grind of Dark Metal

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: June 10, 2014
Label: Relapse

In writing, as with all art forms, it’s important to know when to kill your darlings, to abandon your beloved bon mots for the greater good of the work. On their third album, Tombs do exactly that, slashing and burning everything we thought we knew of them: Savage Gold is a slaughterhouse. The mostly-Brooklynite band have evolved yet again both sonically and within their own ranks (this marks the first album for new bassist Ben Brand and guitarist Garrett Bussanick of Flourishing), and the result is leaner and more direct than anything Tombs have done. Their moody post-punk leanings are even more pronounced, as is their affinity for burly death metal riffs and black metal’s more atmospheric, cyclical incarnations. Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal, Cannibal Corpse) imparts Savage Gold with bone-dry production that lacks the warmth or fullness found on records past but amplifies the album’s death metal focus while leaving its more meandering post-everything passages room to breathe. Death metal patron saint Evil Chuck would smile on the hulking riffs and scratchy howls found on album opener “Thanatos” and the melodically warped “Legacy.”

Mike Hill’s serrated vocals rumble with power and resolve, and drummer Andrew Hernandez fully comes into his own with clever patterns and a commanding presence behind the kit. Hill and Bussanick’s inventive riffage varies in intensity and intent, vacillating between fury and finesse. The brooding, low-slung grooves on “Deathtripper” are all Brand (though Hill’s hyper-distorted vocals add a certain alien feel to the proceedings), while “Edge of Darkness” rocks and rages, its initial rock ‘n’ roll fervor punctuated by some awfully fancy fretwork. “Severed Lives” is a gloomy goth number that sees Hill mournfully intone the title again and again over skeletal arrangements.

Savage Gold is of course far more than the sum of its parts, but those parts— Killing Joke, Deathspell Omega, later Death—make for an excellent starting point for the band’s considerable combined talents to spring from. There’s more than a little Neurosis lurking within the regal final track “Spirals,” as well as swaths of blazing tremolo, paranoid guitar licks, and crashing cymbals that serve as a final statement and fitting summation of what Tombs stand for in 2014.


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