Tomb Mold – The Enduring Spirit (20 Buck Spin)Monday, 2nd October 2023
This review was a particularly difficult one to write, and that’s likely to be a similar response to sitting down and fully appreciating what Tomb Mold have crafted with The Enduring Spirit. Thus far, the Toronto natives have been churning out wretchedly grimy death metal that has been direct, yet craftily technical and nuanced when the layers are peeled back. Manor of Infinite Forms and Planetary Clairvoyance both are equally slimy sledgehammers-to-the-face fun as they are compelling and purposeful. When sitting down for a first listen of their latest record, it certainly wasn’t what was expected. Don’t fret, folks – this is still absolutely a Tomb Mold record, as the core elements aren’t jettisoned. However, they’ve expanded their sound, toyed with differing song structures, and in the process have written a decidedly forward thinking progressive death metal album with The Enduring Spirit.
After multiple spins, the album seriously comes to life. Patience may be paramount to some in uncovering the rotting gems waiting to be unearthed. There’s more to unpack here than the possessions of a lifelong hoarder’s basement, but while just as dirty, this one is a pleasure to wade through. Opening piece “The Perfect Memory (Phantasm of Aura)” hits with wild riffage wrapped into unconventional time signatures, all propelled by dizzying drum work via Max Klebanoff. Vocally, not much has changed, and that’s a good thing – Klebanoff’s low register, deep growl still perfectly accentuates the instrumentation. A riff extravaganza awaits with “Angelic Fabrications” and “Flesh as Armour,” with the latter being especially neck bending, and finishing with a uniquely-toned squealing lead.
The really progressiveness really dials up with “Will of Whispers” and its proggy psychedelic opening that’s quite relaxing. Gritty snarls and speedy guitar licks quickly take over, exemplifying the extraordinary talents of string masters Payson Power and Derrick Vella. Bobbing and weaving from smashing heaviness to dreamlike melody isn’t easy, yet Tomb Mold accomplishes this feat several times seamlessly on this track alone. “Fates Tangled Thread” and “Servants of Possibility” continue the inventiveness, eschewing on the dissonant side, guided along by melodies and extravagant songwriting that stick the landing each time. The extended soloing of “Fates Tangled Thread” mesmerizes to the point of hoping this song gets added to their live set, just to witness fretboard lunacy at peak glory.
Flexing their collective muscle on the over 11 minute closer “The Enduring Spirit of Calamity,” all of Tomb Mold’s fascinating evolution is on display. An esteemed skill for moving from raw brutality, to ethereal and beautified calm, and back to brutality again with such grace is a skill of which few have harnessed to maximum effect, ala early Opeth. Tomb Mold isn’t quite to that level yet, mind you, but they’re way closer than some may think. These fellows have really burst out of their shell, and their aptitude as songwriters has advanced quickly before our very ears.
It’s fun to see a band create music that’s both unexpected and phenomenal, thus swiftly moving into the next phase of their journey as a band. Tomb Mold are undeniably onto a gleamingly fresh stylization with The Enduring Spirit, being no doubt a record that any fan of cerebrally written heavy music must hear. Well, maybe the shallow types inexplicably moaning about the band’s choice of attire for a magazine cover will miss the boat (this scribe has zero time for anyone with this type of superficial line of ‘thinking’). Seriously, who’s hating on Resident Evil 2 and Fido Dido? Tomb Mold are as authentic musically as they are in character, having bravely written a distinctly different record that has launched them into the forefront of progressive death metal. The inevitable follow up will come with much expectation; even the keenest admirer won’t have a clue until it drops, and that’s a beautiful thing.