Tuesday 10 June 2014

Tombs - Savage Gold (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 10/6/2014
Label : Relapse Records

Tombs ‘Savage Gold’ track listing (CD, DD, LP)

1. Thanatos 04:25
2. Portraits 06:50
3. Seance 05:29
4. Echoes 07:56
5. Deathtripper 06:44
6. Edge of Darkness 05:28
7. Ashes 05:03
8. Legacy 04:18
9. Severed Lives 04:42
10. Spiral 06:17

Bio :

TOMBS’ third album Savage Gold is the most anticipated underground metal album of 2014.  The band’s sophomore LP Path Of Totality unanimously topped 2011 end of the year metal lists (everyone from Decibel to Pitchfork to NPR, and more, dubbed it their top album of that year).  Savage Gold focuses the awesome strength of Tombs’ previous works into one brilliantly dark post-punk and extreme black-metal masterpiece.  Recorded and produced by Hate Eternal’s Erik Rutan (Cannibal Corpse, Goatwhore), Savage Gold both expands upon the moody post-punk foundations that Tombs’ prior albums explored while also bringing out the band’s most traditionally metal moments yet.  Once every few years a record comes along that sets a new benchmark for what can be done in heavy music.  This is that moment and this is that record.       

The Band :

Mike Hill | Guitar, Vocals
Andrew Hernandez | Drums
Garett Bussanick | Guitars
Ben Brand | Bass


‘Savage Gold’, the 3rd full length album from New York’s Tombs, can be a confounding album at times. I don’t know if it’s because I went in with certain expectations as how the album would sound, or if I assumed certain elements would definitely be a part of the mix; I wasn’t really expecting this album. There’s a lot to process on ‘Savage Gold’, and while the majority of it is of a very high caliber, there are some worrying moments toward the end of the first half of the album.

The album opens with “Thanatos” a relatively bare-bones death metal song. Right away, they've reacquainted me with lessons about thinking I know what I'm going to get when you first listen to an album. “Thanatos” starts out by coupling a slower, plodding death metal riff with some of the fastest drumming you’ll ever hear on a Tombs album. The riff itself paints a mental image of some forgotten monster movie, with this riff as its score. The other thing that jumps out immediately is that they went with a much cleaner sound this time around. The production is more in line with the Swedish Shining’s "Eerie Cold" album or, more recently, Vredehammer‘s ‘Vinteroffer’. “Thanatos” probably isn’t the way I would have started the album because, as far as interest level goes, it never really gets out of second gear for me.  

“Portraits” and “Séance” are excellent back to back songs, focusing a bit more on sorrowful black metal melodies combined with the icy tremolo picking of prime Mayhem. They vary things up nicely on ‘Séance’ by slowing the verse down with a riff that alternates between sludge and frost supported by a simple but wonderful groove. It’s when Tombs travels down these roads that they are at their strongest on ‘Savage Gold’. Unfortunately, things take an unfortunate turn here.

“Echoes” is hampered by some bad vocal choices early on and flat, everything-all-together blast beats in the middle, though it comes together nicely by returning to some 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas' style coldness towards the second half of the song. Once “Deathtripper” begins, the album collapses precisely when it needed something to put it back on track. The first four-and-a-half minutes are spent on a frustrating musical treadmill, where a distorted bass line trudges over a plain drum beat while Mike Hill croaks and moans in as bored a manner as he can muster. Adding to the obnoxiousness is a heavy distortion layered onto Hill’s vocals, which just compounds the agony of it all.

Once we escape the ditch the majority of "Deathtripper" digs us into, the last quarter is actually pretty engaging, even if it's a little redundant. At this point in the album, I began to worry about what I was in for. Thankfully, the worst was very much behind me and “Edge of Darkness” gets the blood pumping again with a track every bit as fantastic as “Portraits” and “Séance”. The opening moments damn near had me leaping to my feet with joy after the uneasiness of the previous two songs.

‘Savage Gold’ never really looks back after that. From that point forward, the album sees Tombs in top form, albeit with a less atmospheric sound than I might be used to. Even “Severed Lies”, which explores a similar musical territory to “Deathtripper”, is exponentially better in composition and execution. Overall, I believe 'Savage Gold' would have been a fantastic 40 minute album, rather than the mostly great 57 minute album we have here.

Words by : Daniel Jackson

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