Tombs - Path of Totality (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Path of Totality (2011)


In astrological terms, the "path of totality" is the track of the Moon's umbral shadow across the Earth. The term is a fitting moniker for the new LP by soon-to-be (post-?)metal legends Tombs. As the album lurches forward, it tracks over the different fields of extreme metal, pulling stray grains of influence with it.

Interviews with frontman Mike Hill tend to focus on what metal genres inspire him. While those questions can be boring or even insulting, with Tombs, they're quite fitting, as what fuels the band is apparent. They borrow the lumbering, downtuned heaviness of Neurosis. The berserk rage of black metal titans Darkthrone is refined into a more angular piercing. The warping soundscapes of Isis are painted black.

But Tombs is more than just a culmination of their influences. Hill is a producer in the most organic sense. He weaves the different strands of extreme metal legends together, but then pulls the bundle to a new place. On "Vermillion", instead of merely parroting Neurosis' plod, he uses it as a base to display weird guitar effects, and then suddenly, fires up the speed, deliberately discarding the meditative trance for an ensnaring, almost hardcore thrash.

But where the album truly succeeds is in dynamics. Extreme metalists often take the title as an excuse to be monosonic WITH EVERYTHING ALWAYS BEING REALLY REALLY LOUD SO THAT IT IS INAUDIBLE or w i t h e v e r y t h i n g b e i n g s o q u i e t s o t h a t i t i s i n a u d i b l e. On tracks like "Black Heaven", Tombs understands the value of range, and slowly builds to an eruption that just shakes the speakers. This theme is throughout the album. At all times, it feels like we are perpetually descending deeper and deeper into a blackened pit–or something horrid is slowly crawling its way up out of it.

Certainly, Path of Totality is a collection of what informed it. But, to suggest that the band looked to outside works and considered them would likely be inaccurate, since the band congeals as a single expression. Rather, like the moon and its waves, Totality likely drew its surroundings towards it without intent nor consciousness, rather than the other way around.