Tombs – The Grand Annihilation (Released June 16, 2017 – Metal Blade Records)
Oh, what could have been. The opening salvo that was Black Sun Horizon had me hanging on every beat yet, The Grand Annihilation wasted that early goodness by never matching such sheer power.
Straight into rolling blast beats and a rumbling bass line fit to shake the teeth from your skull, Black Sun Horizon opened The Grand Annihilation like the Titans rising from Tartarus. Sudden melodic moments of tremolo slowly approached accompanied by a gorgeous kick drum and finally, after drawing me deep within, tortured vocals exploded on top of it all. Big meaty riffs pulled free of the wash of tremolos and gave room for a lead to break free. The whole track slowed at the end, the bass line humming beneath and the vocals becoming a harsh whisper. The seamless transition to Cold kept the awesomeness alive for a bit longer but the marching beat and sludgy riffs ended up on the repetitive side. Old Wounds returned to the tremolos and featured a straight breakdown in the middle of the track with a sick tapping solo which gave way to decidedly Akercocke style whispered vocals. Electronic winds and a slow, crushing riff opened November Wolves. Although the track devolved into monotony it was saved by a wonderful combination of vocals. Hushed cleans harmonised in the background while the harsh moans layered on top, the combination of harmony and gargling harsh was purely unsettling. Slow and purposeful, Underneath marked a distinct change in the vocal delivery as the harshness was put aside for a Smashing Pumpkins style doomy drone. This drone carried on for the rest of The Grand Annihilation and pulled the back half of the album down. Way of the Storm was a gorgeous rolling mass of tremolos which gave way to blast beats which then gave way to sludgy riffs but the vocal delivery failed to match the track. Juxtaposed, Shadows at the End of the World and Walk with Me in Nightmares proved to foil the other as the former was a guttural mess of crashing boulders and the latter was a soft caress of light drum play. Rising from the quiet of Walk with Me in Nightmares, Saturnlian attempted to live up to its orgy definition but, solid riffing was brought down by the now ever present droning vocals. Ending the album and my growing sense of emptiness was Temple of Mars. The opening arena rock drums and pick slide cause a slight twitch in my interest but the track experienced the same problems as the rest of the album as it tossed aside the initial energy in favour of slow crawling riffs and moaning vocals.
Black Sun Horizon blew me away to open the album but, by the time The Grand Annihilation was halfway through, I had had enough of what Tombs was doing. The transitioning between black metal and sludge metal was interesting for the first few tracks. What lost me was the lack of excitement in the riffs. Initially, it was like watching a rock slide slowly unfold; there was a total sense of awe which as the album progressed gave way to a feeling of indifference. Secondly, the vocals which were fascinating and diverse at the outset of the album, flipping from harsh growls to gravelly whispers, turned to a depressed doomy moan for the back half of the album. This was an album that could have been and should have been, much better.