Savage ExpectationsIt seems weird that Tombs was ever considered a genre-smashing band. Essentially they just got on the blackened sludge metal idea a little after Withered. But Wolvhammer, Lord Mantis, and Inter Arma have each had a high profile, so the novelty has worn off.
The genre-smashing hype aside, 2011's Path of Totality was vindication of the critics who predicted great things for Tombs. I wasn't one of those critics before, but I got on board then. Commenters on my blog were basically of the opinion that the band was unimpressive.*
As good as Path was compared to 2009's Winter Hours, and given the long gap between records, you'll forgive me if I expected a lot from Savage Gold. It is a great record, but unfortunately, it turns out to be mildly disappointing.
The blackened sludge style, with its unusual (to my ears) hardcore drumming and dissonant chords with plenty of reverb, is still unusual enough that Tombs hasn't become "just another" band in the style. Mike Hill's vocals are strong, and vary a great deal among black metal and hardcore styles. It's dynamic, leaning a little more to slower paces but mixing up sounds and tempos nicely. The songs are there, too--especially check out "Edge of Darkness."
But as far as I can tell, it doesn't mark a step forward for the band. It's not better than Path, it's not more experimental, better written, catchier, more harrowing, or, really, much different at all except perhaps a little slower-paced. As unfair as it might be, I expected some remarkable shift or dramatic improvement in some way, sort of what Opeth has trained us to expect from them. Instead, I got treated to an Amon Amarth level of consistency. Don't get me wrong--Amon Amarth never disappoints. But I'm setting the bar higher than Tombs deserves.
So, it's not going to convert anyone who didn't buy in before, and it might disappoint someone who hasn't tempered expectations. But taken on its own terms, there's absolutely nothing to complain about. Truly, a solid album.
The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars
* At the time, some in the metal community utterly despised the band, and it did not have a Metal Archives page. That hatred seems to have dissipated, and they now have an MA page.