Brooklyn's TOMBS is one of the best American black metal outfits alongside AGALLOCH and WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM. Onstage these guys command vast space, even on tiny platforms. The main reason for the band's commanding performance being Mike Hill and company's daringness to try just about anything inside their music short of pop or country. Now matching their EP count to their LPs, TOMBS releases the explorative "All Empires Fall", the band's first to feature keyboardist/backing vocalist Fade Kaidner.
What TOMBS covers in 24 minutes is, as always, impressive. Black metal being its primer, expect to take some wild and sometimes spooky turns. Opening with a creepy synth and coldwave intro to "The World is Made of Fire", TOMBS plants the pedals and asserts a mid-tempo march in front of Fade Kainer's swirling keys, which float and scrape throughout the instrumental. They hit a beauteous apex before TOMBS plummets down the steep black metal channels of "Obsidian". Mike Hill's esophagus must truly hate him by now as he strains his voice with hollers of such severity they're the audile semblance of pain. Charlie Schmid ravages his clumpy but undeniably powerful grind rhythms, hitting a breathtaking double hammer prior to the song's finale. Ben Brand glues his bass upon Schmid with quaking reverb to the point that "Obsidian" feels more than sounds like something's about to open up and swallow everything.
Borrowing from MELECHESH on the cryptic "Last Days of Sunlight", TOMBS conveys a figurative ossuary emittance within its hollow gloom, Goth chants and synthetic Sumerian resonances. Ben Brand and Charlie Schmid lay out a bass-barbed intro to the ENTOMBED-esque "Deciever", that leads into an unexpectedly catchy and whumping rock groove. Even with the liquidly ralphing and somber female chanting during the bridge, "Deceiver" is a huge grabber. TOMBS may not lay out all of their cards on the track, but it's a head-bobbing tail-kicker.
Another foray through a tundra of coldwave during the beginning of "V", whisking the listener into a lurching trek as Mike Hill shows off a faint impression of Peter Murphy. "V" thus becomes an impressive collision between black metal and alternative, BURZUM effortlessly meeting BAUHAUS, with guitars that snarl as much as they toll and grooves that pummel as much as bobble dreamily.
As one of the highest-praised acts in the metal underground, TOMBS once again delivers a provocative and brutal listening experience. "All Empires Fall" rages when it needs to, but never fails to peek inside the embers for subtleties brought to life by Fade Kaidner. Whatever comes next in LP form is going to be very special.