Tombs - Winterhours (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Winterhours (2009)


It was early March and Relapse Records had already made its second entry in the Neurosis sweepstakes with a long-awaited, swelling, conceptual bombast of an album. The other, however, shouldn't go overlooked -- despite pulling from similar influences, Tombs' Winterhours makes its own individual mark quite well.

The band's debut full-length wastes little time, pounding away on drums and guitars with a rather careful dynamic when "Gossamer" opens things up. From there, the Brooklyn trio (!) let things die down around the five-minute mark and brood their way out. But the song's better represented by those little, constant "crashes," and it sets the precedent for Winterhours. The album's considerably busier and more aggressive than their promising self-titled EP from 2007, gazing less at their shoes and more at the heavens with a sincere scowl and jagged howl. It's also a giant step forward in general, with better production as well (especially on the more melodic and mesmerizing "Gossamer").

Frontman Mike Hill, who delivers his lyrics in the familiar style of dramatic, poetic narratives where every line seems to count ("I hold you in my mind / touched by hands of sadness / You can say you are alone / Hearts carved from forgotten stone"), is also a little more vocally diverse this time around. There's more range in his growls and cackling and he even tries some singing on nearly half the album's songs ("Gossamer," "The Divide," "Merrimack" and "Seven Stars the Angel of Death"), which comes off really well, as ragged as it is; he should do it more often.

Winterhours also operates with a punishing, consistenly up-front manner, yet still manages to incorporate plenty of intricate guitar play and minor soft/loud moments that keep a listener focused (take "The Great Silence"). They do still take more mediated routes, however, more so on the second half: the ominous "Story of a Room," a two-minute interval of echoing chords and solemnity; the slow-churning "Merrimack"; the grueling bass dirge-heavy "Seven Stars the Angel of Death"; and refreshingly economical closer "Old Dominion."

Winterhours is a coarse, cathartic and enjoyable take on a style stockpiling varied attempts in the last few years. No one wants to say a band is digging their own grave, but it seems all too logical to say *Tombs* is doing just that with an ironically promising future in mind.