Savage Gold

Written by: AP on 21/12/2014 15:22:48

Over the last few years the ultra hip Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, NY has witnessed the rise of an alternative to the indie/electronic music scene that has reigned there for some time. Referred to (ignorantly) by some as hipster-black, the genre draws from a variety of extreme metal formats - most notably black metal and sludge - and mixes these with more contemplative styles of music such as post-rock and shoegaze. Tombs, like their New Yorker peers, shun the blasphemous elements integral to the Norwegian and Swedish roots of extreme metal, branching out with an approach more closely aligned with the likes of Wolves in the Throne Room, in which the focus is rather on concepts such as nature, nihilism and the Self.

Although Tombs have been held in high regard among critics since the release of their 2011 album “Path of Totality”, this third and latest outing “Savage Gold” is in many ways the trio’s magnum opus thus far, the near unanimous praise by virtually all relevant media providing a convincing testimony to its bountiful merits. It is a revelation which awaits the patient, for to claim “Savage Gold” is possible to digest and fully appreciate in one session would not only be a lie - it would be a gross disservice to the amount of work laid down by guitarist/vocalist Mike Hill, bassist Ben Brand & drummer Andrew Hernandez II during its writing.

At times suffocating, at times haunting, the album presents a diverse assortment of songs exploring the full breadth of the band's influences, and delivers the sort of edge of your seat listening experience that a seasoned connoisseur of music always yearns for. Clocking in at 04:25, opening track "Thanatos" admittedly takes its jolly time kicking the record into gear amidst a flurry of blastbeats and promising, yet unresolved riffs; but enduring the underwhelming start to the proceedings is worth the patience and frustration as moments of scintillating grandeur begin to reproduce themselves. The swirls of cinematic tremolo gloom in "Portraits", reminiscent, in its embrace of far reaching post-metal, of Tombs' brethren in Deafheaven, leave an unforgettable impression before bleeding seamlessly into the gruelling depths of "Seance", the destitute lead which burrows its way through the sludge around the 01:30 mark, too, immortally etched into my catalogue of stunning musical moments.

Virtually all of the material comprising "Savage Gold" balances with great finesse on a tightrope between the extreme and the contemplative, as witnessed for instance by the metamorphosis of a song like "Echoes" from an eerie, resonating quietus distressed by Hill's gruff singing, into a dense low end rumble and some of the most ferocious growling heard on the record. The following "Deathtripper" follows a similar pattern, focusing for much of its running length on shoegazing before unfolding through an ingenious transition into double pedal driven, discordant bedlam; while centerpiece "Edge of Darkness" provides the most overt touches of hardcore yet in a display that should have even the most stern opponents of physical expression headbanging as if under some spell. It's thick, stifling, and harrowing - symptomatic of the general approach taken by Tombs across much of "Savage Gold".

Indeed, listening to a track like "Ashes", it strikes me that without an existing affinity for extreme metal, the album may, at first, come across as a little too merciless and unforgiving to lure the listener in. The darkness that reigns over this thing stands in stark contrast with the bright, uplifting mood to which the music of Deafheaven - the most prominent representative of this hybrid genre - gives rise, and there are moments that would have me tearing my earphones out in despair were I not in the right mindset to digest music as punishing as this. But by firing frequent rays of light into the cesspit, Tombs manage largely to avoid strangling the listener with the sheer brutality of their music. Their heaviest album yet, producer Erik Rutan has ensured "Savage Gold" is an acquired taste - but when the epiphany happens, it's one of those records that becomes a voice inside your head; one to obsess about and return to for years to come.


Download: Portraits, Seance, Edge of Darkness, Ashes
For the fans of: Deafheaven, Indian, Krallice, Liturgy
Listen: Facebook

Release date 10.06.2014
Relapse Records

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