Tombs reshuffle the deck again with lineup additions, doom-fed blackness on ‘All Empires Fall’

TombsBands that constantly change their colors are not all that common. It seems that many bands get comfortable in their ways of being and settle themselves in those areas for the long haul. Nothing wrong with that. It makes for consistency. But bands that always change things up are pretty damn fun, too.

Ever since they got started nearly a decade ago, Tombs have done their part to keep things interesting and their audience guessing. It’s weird in a way, because you always know Tombs when you hear them, but each time out, they add different shades to their overall output. That’s one of the things that has kept Tombs so vital and exciting, and it pumps a hell of a lot of vitality into their great new EP “All Empires Fall.” The band really seemed to hit their stride on 2014’s “Savage Gold,” but further lineup changes and additions, as well as stretching out even further beyond their borders, makes for what could be the most exciting era of Tombs to date.

Tombs coverOut front of the band is Mike Hill, who has been there since the beginning and is the band’s unquestioned voice and heart. His gritty growls, wild wails, and dreary clean vocals give the band their trademark DNA, and he’s one of the most refreshing and ever-changing figures in metal. As this band is wont to do, there have been plenty of personnel shifts since “Savage Gold,” with only bassist Ben Brand as a holdover. The most interesting addition is synth/noisemaker/second vocalist Fade Kainer, himself a member of the awesome Batillus, who adds a whole new dimension to the band. Also part of the fold are guitarist Evan Void (Hivelords, Sadgiqacea) and drummer Charlie Schmid (Vaura), who also add thunderous elements to this band and hint at a cataclysmic future.

“The World Is Made of Fire” is a quick instrumental opener and one that gives you a huge hint of what’s in store. Murky sci-fi keys sweep in and glimmer, letting thick clouds roll over, and out of that comes thundering riffs that beat the hell out of you. That paves the way for “Obsidian” that opens with pure black metal strains raining down, as well as vocals that smear together guttural growls and ear-piercing shrieks. There is a storming chorus that creates one of the most memorable sections in Tombs history, and the pace manages to find another gear as the track blasts toward its finish. “Last Days of Sunlight” has a mystical ambiance and a deathrock feel, with Hill going for warbly clean vocals that remind of Tom Warrior. The song is dark and dreary and leaves black streams in its wake. “Deceiver” is another massive destroyer, with a thick, chugging pace, vocals scraping, and as savage-sounding chorus that means business. Soloing rips out at the end, with spacious noise flooding up, and a clubbing finish that bruises you. Closer “V” begins with a gust of furnace-powered noise before it splits open. Hill again goes with his darker clean voice, with black metal melodies dripping and cascading over the chorus, harsh wails pounding, “Fall into the great divide!” and vicious guitars emerging and sending everything into chaos.

If this is a new start for Tombs, then I’m absolutely pumped. There was nothing wrong with Tombs in any of their forms, and I’ve loved everything they’ve ever put out. But they’re onto something on “All Empires Fall.” This feels like a strong, furious vision the band has been seeking since they got started. Way more of this, please.

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