Tombs - Savage Gold (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Savage Gold (2014)

Relapse Records

It is no longer hyperbolic to say Tombs have gotten better with every album. They have a legitimate streak going, with every release redefining the band's sound. Just as Winterhours was their metalgaze pinnacle and Path of Totality their sludgiest sludge sludge, Savage Gold marks another new direction; this is Tombs at their most post–black metal. Savage Gold is a decimating work, at turns brutal and droning. It is, simply, the best Tombs record so far.

Given how much black metal aims for grainy, indecipherable dissonance, it's remarkable that Savage Gold is the cleanest–sounding Tombs record to date. Winterhours was perfectly titled, as its production favored a hazy vibe. But every movement on Gold comes through pristine, no matter how much frontman Mike Hill shreds his vocal cords.

There are plenty of blast beats to be had, especially on the propulsive, can't–believe–it's–seven–minutes–long "Portraits," but Tombs have always been a band of contrasts. For every rising action like "Séance," there's a falling action like the whispering "Deathtripper," a bass–heavy, post–punkish tune that verges on goth. Songs like that allow the listener to breath, and make the heavy hitters that much more intense.

And man do these songs hit. Tracks like "Legacy" and opener "Thanatos" come loaded with riffs galore. Tombs were never particularly mathy, but these new tunes come off as direct, crowd–pleasing headbangers. Though the tracks skew towards the five plus minute mark, they never feel like it.

If Deafheaven's Sunbather alienated metalheads with shoegaze tendencies (and hype), perhaps Tombs can teach them better. Get beyond Brooklyn hipster metal stereotypes, and Savage Gold packs something for everyone. There are plenty of heavy riffs and propulsive percussion, but also elements of Deafheaven's melody and Altar of Plagues' melancholy. It's secretly a crossover record, or at least as much as a post–black metal record that's full of screaming dudes and shredding guitars can be. At 10 tracks, Savage Gold is lean enough not to wander, diverse enough not bore, and certainly heavy enough to smash skulls and pillage minds.