Winter Hours, the debut album by Brooklyn's Tombs, was one of 2009's standout metal releases. Call it experimental black post-metal, or whatever, but essentially, the album presented an intensely bleak and aggressive sound, with pounding drums, distorted, razor-sharp guitars, and occasional moments of Neurosis-like catharsis. Its follow-up, 2011's Path of Totality, took that explosive sound and gave it some room to breathe, with more dynamics and even some post-punk influences.
But with Savage Gold, Tombs pursues a more straightforward black metal feel, with blast beats and china cymbal crashes and sinister-sounding tremolo riffs. Even Mike Hill's formerly hardcore-ish howl sounds more raspy. According to an interview with Hill in Pitchfork, the drier, more direct sound was the result of working with producer Erik Rutan (of Hate Eternal), who encouraged the band to use less reverb. The band also added two new members — bassist Ben Brand and guitarist Garett Bussanick — and that freed up Hill, songwriting-wise, to allow for more nuance and dissonance.
The onslaught of black metal intensity begins with opener "Thanatos" and continues with the mournful, shoegaze-y "Portraits" and more standard "Ashes" and "Legacy." But there are some variations on the theme. "Edge of Darkness" is straight-up black 'n' roll — a chugging mid-tempo track that's surprisingly accessible. And there are hints of Swans in the dissonant guitar riff, industrial gloom, and spoken-word lyrics of "Deathtripper." The eight-minute "Echoes" begins prettily enough, with hypnotic guitars and cleaner singing, but doomy guitars and machine-gun drumming build it to hair-raising heights.
Less experimental than Tombs' past releases, Savage Gold goes for pure, dense power. (Relapse)