Time itself is no longer the reaper in the eyes of the eternalist, who’d cluster all three dimensions observable with a fourth axis rather than in spite of it. To melt within the inevitable enfeeblement of our telomeric limitations is to stare the million time-sensitive reapers of apoptosis in their painful gaze and see a veritable world of death unto ourselves as the human organism. To posit the weight of impermanence in view of death, to see the end and engage it, to see that “all time is all beginning…” may open a new window larger than ego and identity: It looms in the mind as the great psychotic frontier of eternal and unlimited space, an unknown infinity wholly uncorrupted by the inadequacies of time’s auld philosophical implications. To accept and understand this anatta and move towards the greater journey of enlightenment is perhaps the only viable solution for the ailments that bung the minds of the inconsolable, obsessive modern man but what of the greater organism? What of the planet, the solar system, the universe? The great and beguiling leap of illustrious narrative spasm felt within ‘Planetary Clairvoyance’, the third full-length in three years from Toronto, Canada death metal band Tomb Mold, posits a jilted and grossly caressed sphere set upon ‘killing itself to live’ and cleansing the ‘self’ of its parasitism. The cosmic horror of this mind-rending examination of impermanence, rejuvenation, and acceptance of death is a barrel-chested attack of modern day death metal set upon the ear as if a great beast hissing through an airlock into the chilling hell of outer space.
Thirteen months ago I’d seen ‘Manor of Infinite Forms’ (2018) as a piece of deliberate ambition in the sense that the style and production sound had morphed just enough to avoid seeming iteration and any major repetitive stylistic motions; Eight months ago the moldy boys introduced their window into the infinite horror of the galaxy with the ‘Cerulean Salvation’ (2018) demo, a puff of cosmic dust that sold within moments and detailed their intentions very clearly in approaching ‘Planetary Clairvoyance’. The “space-flung” grooves that’d driven me unto a Lovecraftian state of vexation and madness in November were disparate pieces of the greater puzzle that are enacted as powerful, relentless momentum on this beautifully arranged full-length album. The wry-necked leads and storm of brutalized progressions within are Tomb Mold, that identity is visible and glistening as it hatches from the egg upon the pedestal, a recognizable entity that’d been a boiling mush of exposed carapace and knotted flesh previous. There is narrative purpose in the motion of the full listen, a movement that is intentional and creeping forth, snaking between shadows and flinging its way through Jefferies tubes without a need of a host to haunt.
What a marvel it is to sit within the green and blue rotting warmth of a death metal LP here in the summer of 2019 and never feel as if stymied repetition or ‘one-trick pony’ overindulgence ever enter the fray to mar the flow of the piece. ‘Planetary Clairvoyance’ gives the harried hulk of ‘Severed Survival’ an pre-’95 Suffocation boost a la early Gorguts but still reels in that brutality to strike upon the iron of Adramelech. There is still a broader sense of early New York death metal meets the Carcass/Autopsy influenced youths of late 80’s northern European death metal in the pacing and tonal feel of Tomb Mold‘s moment-to-moment kicks yet, this time around they’ve reached a new high in terms of unique sonic identity thanks to a cold but spacious sound (from Arthur Rizk and Sean Pearson) that warms within the pocket of each song. It feels as if they’ve struck upon their clearest phrasing yet in terms of guitar work and vocal narrative; It is a work very much on par with say, ‘War Master’-era Bolt Thrower (or alternately Carcass circa ‘Necroticism…’) when considering developed phrasing that indicates personality while also hitting a sweet spot between memorable arrangements and ‘true’ death metal’s brutal heaviness.
All four members of the project had probably hit a ‘sweet spot’ in terms of on-album performance by ‘Manor of Infinite Forms’ where the takes were crisp, the sound was darkly stylized and the compositions were labyrinthine at first glance. In fact there was almost a wall of density on that breakthrough album that surely befuddled many for how inaccessible it might’ve seemed at first glance. With consideration for the musty garage-thumping basement chugging youths of todays underground death metal populace I’d say that prior album was gluey and tensile, a writhing serpent shaped entity that was all brain and only muscular for effect; ‘Planetary Clairvoyance’ is a sentient spaceship by comparison, self-propelled and jetting between worlds in flashes of light trailed by the echo of its deafening growls. It pushes hard, just as ‘Cerulean Salvation’ had hinted, and the result is a full listen that almost moves too fast as it crushes between riff and hook without getting lost in a maze of riffs. The ghosts of semi-technical Finnish and North American death metal are still alive within ‘Planetary Clairvoyance’ but, I’d say some measure of non-‘region specific’ modern influences void the specificity between pure ‘old school’ credibility and the modern day non-committal styles of death metal for an album that is timeless for its exemplar sound and arrangements without ripping tastelessly into any one direction. This’d suggest some generic attributes on paper but in motion Tomb Mold present a vibrant, expressive, and exciting record that is more than just riffs but two sides of heavily repeatable songs.
Across the board the greatest missteps of the year thus far have been opening tracks that take forever to introduce the album in question. While I’m not an impatient brat or a brained goon about this sort of thing it was a -moment- to have previewed “Beg For Life” and been clobbered by its quick-to-crush attack up front. This was the missing piece of the puzzle that “Planetary Clairvoyance (They Grow Inside Pt. II” and “Cerulean Salvation” had hinted at on the prior demo tape, a groaning epic that mounds the rot of old and jettisons it out into unknown of the frozen infinite void. The tethering between those first two songs is the first of many points of perfection as I build my case for this record as a higher-brain piece of death metal. The aforementioned momentum of the greater whole is maintained as if they’ve opted for neck-through construction rather than glued together parts; It isn’t one great big song but rather a ‘whole’ piece that can be just as easily perceived up close and personal or distant in its astral projection. Each song is immaculate and delivered with the bravado of a space-prison breakout but at no point does ‘Planetary Clairvoyance’ feel overthought. It does however feature many fairly technical moments that are almost deceptively simple at first glance, sharing some of that appeal of demo-era Demilich and perhaps more closely Crematory (Sweden) while managing lead guitar arrangements that invoke ’91 era Carcass and the bands they’d influence around that time. So, wait, is it free-flowing momentum based carnage or semi-technical creepy-crawling burl? Well, that’d be why I’m generally so pleased with this record, as a unit Tomb Mold manages a solid fusion of thought, feeling and movement; Right and left brains engaged at once.
Though I find no value in comparative analysis of vastly different bands I will say that in ranking the collective hundreds of records I’ve dug through this year ‘Planetary Clairvoyance’ is among my most listened to records of the year thus far and easily my favorite death metal full-length. The leads are purposeful, the riffs are imaginative as they are moshable and the overall package is beyond stunning. As massively stunned as I was by Ghastly‘s record last year I am today just as glowing within the experience of Tomb Mold‘s latest. I won’t say that it is a perfect experience but surely a new and glorious peak for the limitless appeal of this exemplar death metal band; The interlude “Phosphorene Ultimate” goes on for about a minute too long and the wet noises at the end of instrumental closer “Heat Death” would take me out of it for a second just for how juicy they were but, these are very minor things at around 45 seconds of mild discomfort on an otherwise pristine modern death metal record. I am confident enough in the lifespan of this record and its jeweled placement in Tomb Mold‘s discography to give it my highest recommendation of the year thus far. For preview we’ve been given very strong curation as per usual with 20 Buck Spin but I’d say don’t make any decision either way until you’ve heard “Beg For Life” and “Planetary Clairvoyance (They Grow Inside Pt. II” back-to-back then for sure jam the beast that is “Accelerative Phenomenae” on repeat ’til death.
Wombs of crystal and slime. 5.0/5.0
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