REVIEW: TOMBS – “Monarchy of Shadows”
Brooklyn’s extreme metal band Tombs come back with their fifth full length installation in their 13th year of existence, and this time with an overhaul of their line-up around Michael Hill. I have always preferred Tombs to have the black metal only decorating the post-metal skeleton than the other way around, because the style of personal aggression present in Michael Hill’s writing works well manifesting as the sludgy rotten riffing of post-metal than the larger-than-self aggression of black metal. With ‘Monarchy of Shadows’, Tombs again shines when the pummeling sludge/post-metal punctuates the impatience of the black metal parts. In small pockets, these two elements are inseparable, and this is what I would want to see Tombs continue to stride towards.
‘Monarchy of Shadows’ is generally pretty fast-paced. Lots of blast beats and tremolo picking throughout the 35 minutes it lasts. The self-titled opening track is definitely my favorite track on the record. Starting off as a full-blown black metal track with powerful riffing, it transitions to a more post-punk/death rock stylized section that creates a complementary thread within the scope of the base atmosphere. It provides a sampler on the variations that Tombs have developed their identity on.
“Once Falls the Guillotine” is again a track where the black metal’s foreplay tantalizes and flows into a riffy mid-paced stabilizer, before mirroring back into the black metal riffing that brought you there. Again, “Necro Alchemy” wastes no time to blast through surgically and leap off the cliff into some nasty sludgy death metal riffing that will remain a highlight of this album. Similar approach is taken with “Man Behind the Sun” with the hurried blackened force leading the track into a mellow atmospheric section that defuses the tension without letting go of the nefarious aura created.
“The Dark Rift” is carried initially by mid-era Morbid Angel style riffing, leading into more aggressive black metal, this time garnished by some wavering keyboards. The drumming on this track is a highlight as well. “Path of Totality (Midnight Sun)” plays around a core melody in the first half of the track, breaks the track down into grimy troughs while still dragging around the skeleton of the melody until the end. It’s a rework of the track from the 2011 album of the same name, with a cleaner sound.
Tombs revisit the sound of their early days, which personally are my more favorable sound of theirs, with tighter black metal and timely transitions to all their other influences. ‘Monarchy of Shadows’ is also as long or short as should be for the pace and corresponding regular intervals of deceleration’s. The production is a little too clean and I wonder if a dirtier and more filthy sound would have put light on the sludgy and riffy parts better.