Tracklist1. Black Hole of Summer
2. To Cross the Land
5. Path of Totality
8. Silent World
9. Cold Dark Eyes
10. Black Heaven
11. Red Shadows
12. Angel of Destruction
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Though it sometimes feels as if Tombs has been pounding out their brand of post-metal/doom/sludge/hardcore/whatever for a borderline eternity in the nascent post-co-option underground, a little cursor clicking reveals the Brooklyn outfit’s been active a mere four-and-a-half years. I think this feeling is more a testament to the band than anything, that they’ve been able to lodge themselves in amongst the most well-respected of their brethren in such a relatively short time, especially without being a flimsy hype darling. That they stubbornly resist categorization and are able to generate such a huge sound for a trio are yet two more reasons that on principle alone, one would be pre-disposed to viewing Path of Totality in a favorable light in a purely macro sense.
To get into the guts of the thing requires some work, however, and while some may be off-put, those that are willing to stick around for a few listens will reap the rewards. To be honest, as with every Tombs offering thus far, my first experience was decidedly blasé. But it’s the rule of threes with these guys, as I’ve learned; and once again, it proved an effective blueprint. On the third trip through Path of Totality everything clicked, be it the atmosphere of vague menace that becomes all too palpable at the drop of a hat, much like the best horror movies, or the ability to seamlessly intertwine aspects of far afield genres in a crucible and make them all their own.
Like the godfathers of post-metal, Neurosis, Tombs is also adept at winding that atmosphere and tension into a densely-packed ball of tempestuousness, and yet even when things drift into obscure, dream-like passages, it’s more like being at sea in the eye of a storm than any kind of real calm. “Passageways” is one such example of this feeling—think of it as a restless night’s sleep. Then of course we have examples within a song, like “Red Shadows,” that lulls you into a false sense of security before slamming into you with full force.
While I have spoken glowingly of Path of Totality, by rights borne of sweat and good judgment, like keeping the vocals buried in the mix (unlike the mistake A Storm of Light made on their latest by pushing them to the fore), and showing an increased incorporation of influences, there are a few minor scratches on the body, so to speak, that knock the score down a little. The two biggest are the fact that the album can be long-winded, and that there are a few pockets sprinkled throughout where the effectiveness of atmosphere can’t cover up for mediocre songwriting. On the whole, though, Path of Totality is Tombs’ best work to date and represents yet another step in the right direction.