STREET TOMBS – Reclusive Decay (2023)REVIEW

Heavily influenced by primitive death metal, extreme thrash metal, and d-beat/street punk Santa Fe, New Mexico-based death metal quartet Street Tombs have made some considerable strides since forming as a trio circa 2017. From the get-go one could smell a certain The Exploited-tinged thrash maniac at the core of what they were doing within the parameters of ‘old school’ death metal songcraft found their first of three formative demo tapes (‘Web of Death‘, 2018). The general pacing of their modified d-beat conscious death-thrash push meant the major shape of their sound was ‘ready formed, bristling with character from the first strike. Over the next couple of years the core trio became a quartet and hit up Earhammer to hone in on a more wholly death metal attuned sound on their second demo (‘Schizophrenic Visions‘, 2020) with bigger riffs, kinda barreling mid-paced thrashing stuff, pretty straight forward action overall. That seemed to be the gist of their gig and its greater designs, a steady and proper ‘old school’ influenced death metal act which doesn’t rely upon mosh breakdowns and metalcore riffs to cut-in interest for the nowadays crowd. Their third demo (‘Rip the Abyss‘, 2021) didn’t mess with the idea but rather enhanced it considerably, throwing in some stylized leads and modulating the register on the vocals to something slightly more readable, it was a smart tweak upon their sound which pushed the guitar interest a bit further. It wasn’t yet the breakthrough hinted at on ‘Reclusive Decay‘, but they’d used plenty of rebar in setting the foundation for their gig.

Stepping into ‘Reclusive Decay‘ there was some sense that Street Tombs‘ core idea was simple enough, pro-sounding from the beginning, and hitting a high (but fairly plain) standard to the point that they appeared more than ready for an official release. I don’t know if I was expecting any flesh on their bones per a full-length after a just a handful of years but this debut LP does more than make good on the style they’d established, sorting the meat-and-potatoes scratch of the demo process and ultimately finding somewhere to go with it. Truth be told they probably could’ve re-recorded all of their previous pieces for a debut if they were so inclined, all that stuff holds up, yet we do find some of those insights applied up front as the restless riffcraft of “Wretched Remains” tunnels inward to start, taking cues from the heavier sledge-and-burn of ‘Schizophrenic Visions‘ while incorporating some of the additional lead guitar frequency that’d made ‘Rip the Abyss‘ notable. It’ll kick off sounding like a Street Tombs record from the start if you’d been privy to know what they’re all about up front: Reaching for mid-paced thrash influenced death-punk rhythms most often, hitting a classic feeling tension available to death metal not far removed from hardcore punk’s extreme directives and the refined guitar driven study of late 80’s thrash a la Autopsy and Master, if we can to cut back to the very quick of things. A starting point, but not at all the full gig beyond those introductory moments.

Beyond that point the keen and engaged ear-vore will find a new phase engaged this slightly modified line-up (now with the fellowe from Infera Bruo on bass) dips into a spell of haunting death-doom here and there, incorporates deeper nuanced layers into their overall render and compositional scope alongside a more directive lead guitar presence; With six songs and roughly ~33 minutes to fill Street Tombs don’t make a demanding proposition in terms of invested time in breaching their debut but they do pack a ride into each of these five minute pieces, most of which aim for the still-competitive circa 1992 thrashing yet varied aesthetic of classic death metal’s phrasal development while still steeping the actual voice of the rhythm guitars by way of the 2011-era revival of underground death metal expressivity (see: FDA Records in the 2010’s, more-or-less).

As Street Tombs adeptly wheel from punkish death metal jogging into death/doom-adjacent riffcraft about ~2:25 minutes into “Diseased Existence” we hit the first truly energizing moment on the first half of ‘Reclusive Decay‘, not only is it a big rack of riffs overall but you can tell the band are aiming to keep on their toes in terms of ideas and not simply drone through the first half. Working off the momentum of that piece the big breakaway moment for my own taste on ‘Reclusive Decay‘ strikes within the eerie scaling leads which distinguish “Devour” as a fresh point of expansion for the band’s sound, morbid cathedralesque keys, doomed cadence and all. On the flipside the throughway is entirely smooth in transition, a quick pause in the action before “Rising Torment” chugs through as one of the simpler, more average pieces on the full listen. From my point of view the momentum of the record flatlines here in terms of pacing as a middling stomp persists for the rest of the record.

The riffs do return as “Commanding Voices of the Damned” heats up yet the overall trench they’ve carved within this record begins to lean into one specific riff-pocket as the quick burn-through of full listen concludes. It’d left me treading water in terms of interest overall as the doomed detours dried up and the atmosphere of ‘Reclusive Decay‘ with it. Because I’d been impressed by the evolution of the band up until this point I can ultimately appreciate the straight forward nature of this debut and the handful of standout moments it serves without being wholly blown away by the trip from Point A to Point B. Street Tombs manage a solid session worth sitting with, an enjoyable listen for its brevity and impactful set of ideas, though don’t expect the punishing pace of early 90’s death metal or a full-bore thrashing shred event. It’ll survive in mind as a substantive enough modern ‘old school’ influenced record which makes its bigger ideas count. A moderately high recommendation.

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