Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms (2018) REVIEW

The deeply twisted and rabidly tunneled rhythms of Toronto’s death metal history might have been lit by the sparking chainsaws and flamethrower blasts of Slaughter and Sacrifice back in the 80’s but the darkest catacombs were sealed until the mid 2000’s. With the limits of extreme metal being pushed nationwide for the last decade groups like Adversarial, Paroxsihzem, Abyss and Thantifaxath entered the 2010’s with greater-honed, transformative skills and somewhere in that same mix festered the aspirations of Tomb Mold. Initially formed as a duo of Derrick Vella (guitar, bass) and Max Klebanoff (vocals, drums) within a (speculative) timeline presumably after Klebanoff joined Abyss in 2011, and beyond his five year investment in groove-death metal band Fragile Existence. On a plane all their own just a few short years after their first tape, the phenomenal momentum of Tomb Mold‘s hungered-after releases appears to have forced a refining sledge of evolution upon their rotten sound.

Their sound as a duo back in 2016 evolved from a mix of Purtenance and demo-era Dismember on ‘The Bottomless Perdition’ towards a more nuanced Witch Vomit-adjacent sound on ‘The Moulting’. The Finnish death metal influences became even more evident on their debut full-length ‘Primordial Malignity’ which featured dirty-but-readable production that tore away from the cavernous horror of their demos. At the very least the band’s debut was on par with both Funebrarum records as well Vorum‘s ‘Poisoned Mind’ in terms of old school sound and sharp riff progressions. Looking back a year removed from Tomb Mold‘s debut, I think it deserved a bit more fanfare for mixing the cruel attack of Morpheus Descends ‘Ritual of Infinity’ with the thoughtfully trailing intensity of Adramelech‘s first album.

To further elevate expectations, Tomb Mold wasted zero time vaulting off the momentum of their debut by expanding their staff to a four-piece and testing the expanded potential of a full line-up with their ‘Cryptic Transmissions’ demo just six months later. The demo’s bassy tones had a gnarly ‘Severed Survival’ thump but more notably the writing brought an elevated, technical form to their old Finn-deathly sogginess. It was clear that with greater expectations, and two more brains, came increased potential for compositional intricacy. With just two songs already measuring half the length of ‘Primordial Malignity’ a ‘leap forward’ moment was imminent. That prophesied leap would come far sooner than expected with the announcement for the next full-length coming less than three months after the demo.

Momentum can be a dangerous thing in the world of death metal, especially if we look to the history of promising, over-hyped death metal bands in the early 90’s who collapsed when tours fell through, albums flopped, or quickly shifting scene trends deflated their appeal. From the perspective of a collector high potential energy often leads to a bright burn and a quick fade, resulting in some of genre music’s greatest gems be it Gorement or Morbus Chron. But as a fan who forms personal attachment with tours, shirts, albums, and the promise of more… a band that rises to greatness (see: branding) and rides it steadily (Immolation) can retain value that diminishes slowly and reinforces their rise. I see the development of Tomb Mold‘s sound as a great example of how trend-immune a project can potentially be as it’s ‘sound’ begins to supplant its beginnings slightly with new and increasing collaboration. In lieu of describing the impact of it’s momentous potential energy, ‘deliberate ambition’ is how I’d first describe the stylistic statement ‘Manor of Infinite Forms’ makes.

Through alternating periods of analysis and casual enjoyment I’ve found the second Tomb Mold  full-length to be confidently gymnastic compared to the manic aggression of their previous work. The longer, unpredictable compositions and multitude of riff-changes skirt the edges of old school technical death metal without ever falling into chaos, careless dissonance or Demilich-ian redundancy. ‘Manor of Infinite Forms’ isn’t memorable for any grand innovation or flamboyance so much as it relies on a daunting, fractal stream of consciousness that spirals and grinds with twice the ambition of the first record. It’d be hyperbolic to describe the experience as ‘impenetrable’ but the deliberate nature of the guitar work demands rapt attention throughout and I’d often lose the ‘arc’ of certain songs on the first few listens.

Stylistically speaking ‘Manor of Infinite Forms’ blends the furious bludgeon of ‘Ritual of Infinity’ with the clever precision of Demigod and expels it all through the bone-lined caverns of Convulse‘s ‘World Without God’. The riffs are immediate and unrelenting throughout as if plucked directly from ’92 somewhere between Helsinki and New York. Klebanoff‘s vocals are reminiscent of Burial Invocation‘s original vocalist but with a range a bit closer to KryptsAntti Kotiranta; his delivery is perhaps less obscured and distant in the mix than either band but the tonality is often comparable. I believe most folks will be focused on the guitar performances for the first several listens but it is worth noting how flawlessly tuned the overall sound of Tomb Mold is on ‘Manor of Infinite Forms’ thanks to mastering from Arthur Rizk (Inquisition, Power Trip).

Balance without compromise is struck in furthering Tomb Mold‘s stylistic ambitions while tastefully retaining the original intentions of the project. What initially appears as an ‘Erosion of Sanity’-like melange of influences colliding together to form a ‘sound’ actually holds up as a reasonably original conception for old school inspired death metal in 2018. The sonic references, mood, and delivery are inspired but not so derivative that one can pin down ‘Manor of Infinite Forms’ as plain ‘worship’, genre entry, or idolatry. It is just challenging enough to carry depth but never so ambitious that the power of ancient death metal’s attack is lost. Is it memorable though? That’ll depend on your love of riffs and whether intense spectacle or elaborate maze-like compositions are more important. The middle ground is perhaps early Sentenced, Atrocity or Mercyless and if you get excited at the promise of a detour towards the more esoteric edges of ‘Slumber of Sullen Eyes’ this’ll be your new favorite thing.

When I’ve listened to an album so much I lose some perspective when the time comes to reflect upon the best point of induction. A key point of endorsement, actually. No doubt the title track is stand-out but the further refined version of “Blood Mirror”, the opener from the ‘Cryptic Transmissions’ demo, is the ultimate ‘speaks for itself’ piece. The complete listen is relatively flawless in arrangement and execution as a whole. So, outside of maybe the impressive, mosh-able Swedeath build of “Final Struggle of Selves” as a salable point of interest, it is an album best taken whole and revisited. The full listen grew upon me like adipocere within a moist tomb, each layer held value as it’s inner-workings unfolded across countless listens and ultimately exceeded unrealistic expectations. Essential death metal for 2018.


Artist Tomb Mold
Type Album
Released June 8, 2018
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Death Metal

A distorted foretelling. 4.75/5.0

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