Tombs - Path of Totality
Record Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Imagine, for a moment, the scene in The Empire Strikes Back: Luke Skywalker loses control of his X-Wing upon descending into Dagobah and crash-lands in one of the planet's many swamps. Everything on this alien world is shrouded in mist and mire, the environment a thick palette of blacks and grays; the ambience instills an overall sense of paranoia and disorientation. Path of Totality, the third full-length release from sludge metal group Tombs, gives off the same ambience. The sonic landscape of this album is one of bleak desolation, an aesthetic that's underlined with the dense urgency of its music. Percussion that shifts from rumbling, thunderous beats to manic rapid-fire aggression collides with swarm-of-hornet guitars in a devastating whirlwind of musical assault. There's something artful about Tombs' approach, though, as this is no run-of-the-mill sludge release. There's an obvious amount of effort present in each of the album's 12 tracks, keeping things fresh and interesting from start to finish.
True to their name, Tombs unleash an onslaught of eerie, ghoulish metal soundscapes that conjure images of dark, damp catacombs and isolated mausoleums silhouetted against a foggy night sky. Like an early Stephen King novella brought to life, Path of Totality succeeds where lesser bands might fail in creating a listening experience that is haunting and memorable. "Bloodletters" is a pulverizing sludge metal dirge, thunderous drums and buzz-saw guitars driving the listener six feet underground. "Silent World" is a mid-tempo cut set to a backdrop of darkly melodic guitar lines and dizzying percussion fills. For the duration of the album's 12 tracks, it's this kind of experience: exhausting yet thoroughly enjoyable.
However, the album does have a few drawbacks. Upon the first few listens, some of the tracks do end up bleeding together due to similar percussion on songs. This sort of thing almost comes with the territory, though; it’s a minor blemish relatively pardonable, especially when each song begins to stand out after repeated listens. As such, it's the kind of album that demands your undivided attention. Sludge metal isn't often this creative or full of subtle moments of brilliance. Tombs have been a unique face in the modern metal scene ever since their inception, but it's with Path of Totality that the band has truly emerged as a leading force in the scene.