Since their inception back in 2007, Tombs have been in a phase of constant turmoil. Band members have been changed multiple times, with mainman Mike Hill the only original member still in the band. A similar sort of change has been undergoing along the works of the band, with their style. Starting out as a post-black metal act with the raw, but extremely promising, Winter Hours, Tombs have been going through a process of a painful evolution, reaching its peak with the release of Savage Gold. The album saw them solidifying their sound, retaining the raw black metal quality, adding further doom/sludge elements to their body of work, and stylistically moving towards a more heavy metal oriented path. It basically proved that no matter the changes of line-up, or stylistic choices, Tombs were still able to produce great works.
All Empires Fall arrives two years after the pinnacle of Tombs, Savage Gold, and it sees once again a switch in line-up, with Hill and bassist Ben Brand, the only members that participated in the previous full-length. However, the additions in this case are insane. The new line-up includes Charlie Schmid (Vaura) on drums, Evan Void (Hivelords, Sadgiqacea) on guitars and Fade Kainer (Batillus) on synths and vocals. If that is not impressive, then I do not know what is.
What carries across the works of Tombs is their black metal edge, which is also a predominant force in All Empires Fall. And Tombs know really well how to twist around the different forms of black metal, may it be eerie and dissonant or fast-paced and aggressive. “Obsidian” makes use of the more creeping effect of the genre, while “V” interchanges between the furious assaults and an underlying epic quality, with the structure of the track pointing more towards latter day Enslaved. In this scenery the big sludge riffs find a perfect place, slowly unfolding, granting a touch of ritualism to the work, as is the case with “Last Days of Sunlight.” It is a testament to the band how they are able to change between different grooves and come out with a coherent result.
As was the case with Savage Gold, so it holds true in All Empires Fall. The band has moved further into the heavy metal domain, in a more extreme fashion of course. The riffs that make up most of this work's possess the characteristic sharp, pristine edge of heavy metal. However, this is not a mere collage of different genres, with Tombs being able to unleash moments, especially in “Deceiver,” where a heavy/black hybrid sound is initiated, or a more proto-black metal quality is awakened.
The aspect that has changed significantly is the use of synths within Tomb's concepts. Sure, the band had experimented with such methods in the past, Bryant C. Meyer (Isis) appeared as a guest in three tracks from Path of Totality, and that was also carried, to some extent, in Savage Gold. But Keiner's presence in All Empires Fall is certainly much stronger. Apart from just introducing tracks, as is the case with the intro of “The World is Made of Fire” the synths do a terrific job of constructing sceneries. The cold vibe of the intro, the glacial approach in “Deceiver” and the unnerving quality of “V” present sometimes a Godflesh-ian vision or a Theologian-like ambiance. Especially, in the case of “Last Days of Sunlight” the synths are able to cover everything with their spacious sound, dissolving the world around you in the process, adding noise to make it even more uncomfortable. And, they can work alongside the music and not just as a standalone application, as parts of “Obsidian” reveal.
All in all, this EP is a first taste of what Tombs are striving towards. All Empires Fall is a further evolution on the sound of the band, and considering their history, it can be assumed that we are in for a treat when the next full-length arrives.
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