Formed in 2007, black metal experimenters TOMBS have continued to push the bounds of what the genre can be. In their latest EP All Empires Fall, the much anticipated followup to their critically acclaimed Savage Gold (2014) and Path of Totality (2011), (which Decibel Magazine even lauded as album of the year,) continues the band’s evolutionary path into something fundamentally different from others in the black metal pack.
The album expands upon themes of cosmic bleakness seen in the bands prior two offerings, a welcome change from the genre’s usual musings on spiritual darkness. In our decade, there is a definite pop-cultural fascination with the mysteries of the universe, often leaning toward its intriguing beauty. This is good and well, yet there is a dark (pun intended) nature to the universe as well. Lyrics such as those found in “Obsidian” recall the inherent chaos of the cosmos: “Planets long forgotten / Shine like pallid eyes / Darkened slumber falls / These final moments pass … Solar days forgotten / Shores of chaos call / We are the fallen / Manifest in shadows,” and again in “V” “Across the great divide / A dark reflection forms / Embedded in our mind / Through ancient eyes we see.” These Lovecraftian images call to mind the necessary destruction required for the creation of anything in vacuum of space, and that life, for all its wonder and worth, is no less the offspring of this nihilistic cycle.
The band’s music furthers these images of cosmic horror. Mike Hill utilizes the distorted growls popularized by black metal’s lo-fi Norwegian pioneers. But it is his haunting chants that stand out the most, as though he is performing a ceremony to call forth some sleeping r’lyehian deities. The recent inclusion of keyboardist Fade Kainer adds a level of subtle ambiance that seems to carry the listener through the Void itself. Meanwhile new drummer Charlie Schmid’s deftly placed blast beats only enhance the images of cosmic violence.
The only complaint that could be made about this release is its length. Clocking in at roughly 25 minutes, the EP’s tracks seem to come and go quickly thus leaving the listener wishing they had more. Yet the album feels complete, nonetheless. It has a gradual build from the quiet, dare I say almost soothing keyboards on “The World is Made of Fire,” reaching to the depths of emptiness with the sort of interlude “Last Days of Sunlight,” to their explosive finish with tracks “Deciever” and “V.” There is a narrative arch to the piece as a whole.
All Empires Fall can be purchased on iTunes, Bandcamp, and through Relapse Records’ website. It offers something for almost every rock enthusiast. Fans of metal, industrial, and post-punk especially will be able to appreciate the band’s latest artistic endeavor. They are a group to watch out for as they continue their venture into new sonic realms.