After the slug 'n' chug fest of Manor of Infinite Forms, the Canadian crew take to the cosmos on their most accomplished work yet.
In 1979, the marketing team behind the iconic Alien film devised one of the most ominous and chilling tag-lines in cinema: “In space no one can hear you scream”. With just one sentence, the entire film was presented to the unwary viewer who would enter with virgin eyes and leave with images of egg-laying, face hugging creatures that gave birth through a violent bodily evacuation of the host. It's been forty years since the film’s release and it still makes one look to the stars and say fuck that shit. While the film's Jerry Goldsmith score haunted viewers, I find it quite ironic that four decades after the release of the film we have the death metal musical counterpart for Alien.
In true artistic form, Canadian quartet TOMB MOLD deliver a spine-tingling and joltingly atmospheric affair in the degraded form of their third LP entitled Planetary Clairvoyance. Eager fans didn’t have to wait long for the follow up to the immensely successful sophomore outing Manor of Infinite Forms and the Cerulean Salvation demo tape. This record is a culmination of everything TOMB MOLD have done thus far in their career and what they hope to achieve in the coming years. However, there is a different leap forward that the band have taken, and it may or may not surprise fans accustomed to a sonic bludgeoning.
One of the major factors in the success of Manor of Infinite Forms was not only how heavy, brutal, and fun it was, but how it came down to an immaculate sound mix from Arthur Rizk (PISSGRAVE, OUTER HEAVEN, etc.). For people who have followed the group since their inception by then guitarist/bassist Derrick Vella and drummer/vocalist Max Klebanoff, you'd be miffed by how “clean” the album sounded in comparison to The Bottomless Perdition and The Moulting demos. There were those who felt the debut album Primordial Malignity wasn’t raw enough, which I personally have a hard time understanding. While the album was an all-around great listening experience, I had only one tiny issue. If you weren’t prepared for it, you’d find that Manor is EXTREMELY loud. Even at medium volume, you’d find yourself having to remove your headphones due to ringing ears. This is where Planetary Clairvoyance comes to the rescue. Rizk returned to mix/master and worked with the band to produce an album that carries weight yet feels as light as a feather upon the listener. It also has a similar feeling in tone to the early demos and Primordial Malignity but without the outright self-repetition. With this move, TOMB MOLD can satisfy the fans of old and of the new. It’s not a move away from brutality, but a move towards a record that has oxygen to give to its listener despite their lungs being empty after running from a Xenomorph.
What is almost immediately recognized as soon as Beg For Life begins is the supernatural and grim pseudo-industrial sounds that have been the introductory tool to past demo tracks. Before you can kick your feet up and relax, you hear the chainsaw buzzing of both Vella’s and new axeman Payson Power’s synchronized six string maelstrom. The tide of grime is inescapable as bassist Steve Musgrave and Klebanoff launch themselves headlong into the fray. The production and song structure on this track, and in truth the entire album, is both familiar and contrasting to an extent. It feels like TOMB MOLD, yet another beast has awoken. This is made perfectly clear roughly four minutes into the track when classical acoustic guitar makes a somber albeit bright appearance. It was at this point that one realized the band had grown in their songwriting and compositional skills in little over a year since the last record.
A re-recorded version of Planetary Clairvoyance (They Grow Inside Pt. II) from the Cerulean Salvation demo returns in full force with massive killing capacity. While a good minute of ambient introduction was cut, this does not at all effect the quality of the track. In truth, the tune has more muscle and a more straightforward, no bullshit attitude on this record. Track three Phosphorene Ultimate is a personal favorite despite being the most un-death metal track on the album. It is essentially a longer version of the soundscapes littered throughout the band's demo recordings.
At this point, one must recognize how the group went from having simple comparisons lobbed their way to how they took their influences and made them bleed into every second of the album. Finnish death metal is the immediate comparison and a correct one at that. DEMILICH has been cited as an influence by the band, but only from a compositional standpoint. Outside of Finland, previous outputs have reeked of NILE and Human-era DEATH to the bowel churning brutishness of SUFFOCATION and SKINLESS. Planetary Clairvoyance has elements from all mentioned but four influences whether spoken or not crept into my cranium. Three of those bands have Finnish origin, those being DEMIGOD, CONVULSE and ABHORRENCE with the fourth being DISINCARNATE from the United States. The record brings the sheer tectonic heft of World Without God, the atmospheric chug fests of Vulgar Necrolatry and the Abhorrence S/T EP and couples it with the avant-garde stylings found on Slumber of Sullen Eyes, demanding it be mentored by Dreams of the Carrion Kind. It may seem like a dizzying mix, but I can assure you that no other combination of sounds will bring you more joy, aside from sinking your ejecting second mouth into pale quivering flesh.
Infinite Resurrection leads off the next salvo of steel fisted riffage. The track is boosted by the propulsive Musgrave/Klebanoff rhythm section while Power and Vella deliver a guitar performance that wouldn’t sound far removed from more the death metal-oriented tracks by SPECTRAL VOICE. This is something that keeps jumping out to me after multiple listens. While not strictly death doom, Planetary Clairvoyance has an overall doomier feel than Manor of Infinite Forms, especially in how the atmosphere radiates a certain inescapable dread.
Transition onto Accelerative Phenomenae and it does just as it's name implies. Right from the outset riff, the song comes rushing at full speed. This is the creature right at your heels, pouncing to end your feeble existence. It’s DEMIGOD worship at its apex and everything about it reeks of Finland circa '92. While the entire album is an absolute blast into the stratosphere of LV 426 with it’s clear yet sludgy guitar tone and bowel churning rhythm section, an element that stood out heavily as the album peeled back was it’s slimy layers. I tip my Colonial Marine cap heavily to Max Klebanoff’s vocal performance. The confidence gained since the early days of three years ago has been quite astounding, representative of the vocal prowess of PALLBEARER’s Brett Campbell but within the realm of hard-hitting death metal.
Closing track Heat Death has minimal vocals but man this thing will rock your little slime riddled world. The riffs guide you through the final serpentine stretch until it’s all over. You’ve reached the end and all you see is a hideous creation before you. In an almost pseudo nod to fellow countrymen CHTHE’ILIST, the album ends with the vomit inducing sounds of an astral creature munching on your bones and slurping your dermis out of a crazy straw. What better ending could you ask for?
Planetary Clairvoyance has put TOMB MOLD in a position of ultimate cosmic death metal power. They harness the sheer influential magnitude of the early 90’s death metal they adore so much and fuse it with the acidic blood of the new wave of old school death metal without sounding dated or cheesy. If a band wants to accomplish the impossible, sometimes they must do what NASA and TOMB MOLD ask of us on Planetary Clairvoyance and look to the stars to see what will hug our faces for inspiration. It would not be a stretch to say that TOMB MOLD will be a band that I can foresee being mentioned in the same breath as DEATH, CANNIBAL CORPSE, BOLT THROWER and many others as one of the greatest death metal bands of all time and it’s all because they stared headlong into the void and allowed the void to stare back into them. Just remember that "in space no one can hear you scream." With Planetary Clairvoyance, you will scream for help and people will see you, yet they will do nothing to help as you are dragged into eldritch darkness; becoming a feast to the astral monster that haunted all forty years previous.
Planetary Clairvoyance is out July 19 via 20 Buck Spin. Order your copy HERE.