Tombs – Ex Oblivion EP


Mike Hill’s New York metal collective, Tombs, released one of the best albums of 2020 with Under Sullen Skies. Their abundance of critical accolades since 2009’s Winter Hours is as impressive as the workaholic tendencies of their frontman. Tombs are the definition of a cult band. Everybody in the underground likes them, but not enough people know about them. They can share a stage with the meanest sludge band or the scariest black metal troop, but they have their own sound that lies somewhere between old school death metal, post-punk, thrash and prog. As a group with restless creative impulses, they decided now is the time to release a five-track EP with two new songs, two covers and a remix of a fan favourite. But is it enough to generate the usual excitement?

The title track is a welcome addition to the band’s back catalogue and should be a positive indication that the next album will be another classic. Listen to the dense doom metal chords and the masterful build-up of suspense before they settle into a mid-tempo rhythm of rolling bass notes and thick guitars. Think of Danzig and put him with Celtic Frost, and you have the signature menace of the Tombs interpretation of rock & roll. You can dance if you want, but the force will wind you at your most vulnerable. It’s the type of dissonant vampiric metal that makes you want to drink the blood of the pastor’s daughter next door.

The cover choices are quite orthodox, but the delivery of Motörhead’s ‘Killed by Death’ is the best of the two. Hill uses a similar guitar tone to the mid-90s Paradise Lost albums and even explores a husky vocal register close to Nick Holmes. The cover of bestial paedophile punk icon, G.G. Allin, on ‘Commit Suicide’ sounds like the type of joke song Type O Negative used to insert into their albums every so often. At one minute and fifty-two seconds, it’s too brief to leave an impression if you divorce yourself from the infamous coprophiliac antics of its original creator. Tombs could have chosen a more ambitious song here and a longer one at that – maybe a Dead Kennedys or Bad Brains tune would be better suited to their punk credentials.

When was the last time you heard a remix in the metal genre that transformed the original version? Has it ever happened? Maybe the SITD remix of Eisbrecher’s ‘This is Deutsch’ is the exception. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same thing for the BKGD remix of 2020’s ‘Sombre Ruin’, which might be too bland to serve as the concert music in between live sets. Imagine Cabaret Voltaire set to a lazy hip hop beat with Darth Vader vocals. On second thoughts, no, don’t imagine that because that will make things worse. Skip this track so you can enjoy the unhinged piano-led minimalism of ‘Murder Legendre’. Now, this is an interesting piece of art, like Christian Death writing the soundtrack to the end of the world. Those people that enjoy mutilating their naked bodies in the splendour of a life-size mirror might tie a tourniquet around their arm and imitate their favourite twentieth-century celebrity junkie when they hear this song. This is how you experience the dark meditations of De Niro’s Travis Bickle character in Taxi Driver through the language of music.

As is so often the case with an EP from an established band, the content of Ex Oblivion is more self-indulgent and less conscious of the artistic pressures to innovate. There’s enough here to enjoy, but not enough to satiate your appetite for more new songs.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 13/07/2022

Record Label: Season of Mist

Standout tracks: Ex Oblivion, Murder Legendre

Suggested Further Listening: Midnight – Let There Be Witchery (2022), Orob – Aube Noir (2021), Mortuary Drape – Wisdom – Vibration – Repent EP (2022)