TOMBS WON’T LET YOU SEE THEM SWEAT ON WINTER HOURS
The infuriating thing about Tombs’ Relapse debut, Winter Hours, at least for a man in my profession, is that it’s hard to quantify why it’s so good. The band’s solid mishmash of genres begs for praise, but as a thick, layered listen, it’s hard to do said praising. Does one touch upon the aforementioned genre-bending mishmash, Winter Hours‘ compact yet haunting presentation, or not lapsing into the masturbatory reverb and feedback drone metal exercises like their hometown (Brooklyn) may imply? Perhaps the album’s greatness lies in that it can’t be pinned down, that it survives and flourishes on its own merits as opposed to thriving within a definite category. Not that it’s bad to thrive under a particular label, but sometimes the unquestioned triumph of the gut is just as resounding as, say, Blut aus Nord making an exceptional black metal record. Though in a time when metal comment boards are reducing every band to the greatest band ever or a total “shit band,” the most important thing you need to know about Winter Hours is that it’s really, really good.
To quantify a little, Tombs are what it would sound like if a sludgecore band got put through the black metal ringer wearing a Godflesh shirt. But that doesn’t do them justice. The guitars are warm (even when chilly blackened tremolo picking is involved), the drums are propulsive and constant, the vocals vary between a midranged hardcore bark to a raspiness to a shout-sing that’s reminiscent of Messiah-era Justin Broadrick (all without sounding unrelated). The record is soaked in reverb, making the band sound real and raw; an album like Winter Hours could suffocate in the compressed air of other current metal production. But the real power of it is how affecting it is: emotional without becoming histrionic, it borrows from post-rock to use vagueness where other bands would use specifics. But this doesn’t mean it doesn’t punch you in the fucking gut as it’s playing to it; Winter Hours still packs some ballsy riffs with pummeling drums behind them. And all this happens in 37 minutes. Each song is an interesting little microcosm, sticking around for as long as it needs to then cedes to the song that follows.
Tombs’ varied approach is (albeit distantly) reminiscent of great non-metallers Fugazi, in that Fugazi incorporate elements of dub reggae, hip hop, hardcore punk, punk rock, noise rock, and a slew of other fringe genres and still manage to come out sounding like Fugazi. Tombs chug forward with little regard for making their influences known; the parts are there, but welded together cohesively enough that you can’t make out the edges right away. Instead, Tombs just sound like a solid band making a solid, sprawling yet well constructed album that explores great spaces in a small amount of time. But pretentious ass kissing will only say so much. They’re just good, OK? They’re just good.
(4 out of 5 horns)