Under Sullen Skies by Tombs album review by Jahmeel Russell for Northern Transmissions

Season of Mist

8.5

Tombs

Under Sullen Skies

TOMBS delivers what is their strongest album to date with Under Sullen Skies. Coming off the excellent Monarchy of Shadows EP released earlier this year, Under Sullen Skies picks right up where the EP left off with some of TOMBS most aggressive and dark material.

The band’s founder Mike Hill assembled a whole new line up back in 2018 of Drew Murphy on bass, Justin Spaeth on drums, and Matt Medeiros on guitars. All three new members hail from New Jersey death metal band Kalopsia and bring a fresh jolt of energy into the sound of the band. While Mike Hill has always been the primary songwriter, the new line up all contributed to the songwriting as well. The result is aggressive songs that are at times melancholic, and maybe best of all, have hooks that really sink into you with repeated listens.

TOMBS have always been known for blending post-punk, black metal, doom, and even some gothic undertones, and Under Sullen Skies is no exception. Opening track “Bone Furnace” blasts off before settling into a groove that will have you banging your head in no time. “Void Constellation” follows with pounding double bass before digging into a hooky doom-laden riff and a killer vocal from Hill sounding absolutely sinister on lines like “Distant points of light, Sigils of madness, Tortured flesh transforms”. “Barren” opens with blasting drums and tremolo-picked guitars that are stylistically very black metal before going into an absolutely beautiful and epic ending section. The song also features a guest guitar solo by Six Feet Under’s Ray Suhy that absolutely rips. All this making the song a definite highlight on the album. “The Hunger” is a more mid-paced stomper with guest vocals from Integrity’s Dwid Hellion. His voice works great with Hill’s and adds a great hook to what is one of the more immediate tracks on the album. “Secrets of the Black Sun” is more atmospheric with Hill delivering a vocal that is at times very reminiscent of Celtic Frost’s Tom G. Warrior. The song also features vocals from Ides of Gemini’s Sera Timms. Her voice is haunting and absolutely complements the vibe of the song. Elsewhere, songs like “Descensum”, “Lex Talionis”, and “Angel of Darkness” ramp up the intensity but are balanced throughout by the doom of “Sombre Ruin” and the instrumental “We Move Like Phantoms”. The album closes with the absolutely epic “Plague Years” which manages to capture all the musical moods of the record in one fell swoop. Referencing archangels Samael, Azrael, and Apollyon, it has a message many people will be able to relate to regardless of their beliefs with the lyrics at least metaphorically relating to the darkness, fear, and isolation many are feeling in the year 2020.

It seems that Hill’s collaboration with his bandmates’ input has helped result in the best album the band has done yet. The blending of styles is very cohesive and keeps you engaged throughout the album, while the songs that feature guest musicians also help to create some truly standout moments. The black metal elements are the strongest I’ve heard from TOMBS on this album and although this record may not appeal to purists of that genre, it should definitely appeal to plenty of metal fans who will appreciate the perfect blending of styles the album presents.

Pre-Order Under Sullen Skies HERE

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