Brooklyn-based metal band Tombs have certainly become an act to watch since their 2009 Relapse Records debut, Winter Hours. Subsequent releases, including their latest EP, All Empires Fall (out today—get it from Amazon), uphold the high standards they have set for themselves. While boasting a new line-up, this release sees Tombs continuing to expand on their vast and epic sound with even more cross-genre pollination, something that has always been a calling card for the band. At this point, guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill is the sole original member. On this recording, he’s joined by synth/electronics player and second vocalist Fade Kainer, guitarist Evan Schaefer, bassist Benjamin Brand, and drummer Charlie Schmid.
In just 24 minutes, All Empires Fall employs a broad range of techniques to construct a atmosphere of utter Armageddon and devastating loss. With the short introduction of “The World is Made of Fire” and followed by the song “Obsidian,” Tombs show how much ground they can coherently cover in a short amount of time. They have always wedded the cyclopean riffs and atmospheres of classic Neurosis with the fury of black metal, and that is exactly what these first two tracks succeed in doing. But perhaps never before have they sounded so powerful; the blast beats of “Obsidian” are nothing short of absolutely feral.
But the third track, “Last Days of Sunlight” takes a left turn into Goth/postpunk territory and provides a moody, though still dark, respite from the previous assaults. This is followed by “Deceiver,” which almost harkens back to the groove-laden, brutal metalcore of mid-’90s albums on Victory Records, albeit twisted and morphed into a form that sits comfortably within the rest of the material around it. The EP then closes with “V,” a song that seems to pick the best parts from the approaches of each song preceding it. There are more Gothic vocals, this time reminiscent of the mighty Virus because of the riffing surrounding them.
Tombs have delivered on every album to date, and this new release is no different. It is amazing how self-contained All Empires Fall really is; it’s as if removing one song would significantly reduce the almost narrative impact of the whole. Tombs have done more than produce a stopgap release between full-lengths, yet they also manage to cause one to yearn to see what heights they might reach in the future. Till then, there is no doubt that All Empires Fall is a worthy soundtrack to the slow-motion collapse of civilization unfolding before our eyes.