Monday, 11 November 2013

Tombstones - Red Skies & Dead Eyes (album review)

Cover artwork by Glyn Smyth.
One of the heaviest bands in the entire world is Norwegian trio, Tombstones (not to be confused with French trio Tombstone or Finnish trio Tombstoned).  I was introduced to the band when I picked up their third album, and Soulseller Records debut, 'Year of the Burial' [SSR-050] on a whim last summer.  Once I heard the album and got into it, I felt it flew a bit undeservedly under the radar.  I never reviewed the album here on PH, but I gave it a 4.5 star rating on my year in review feature.  The most overwhelming feature of 'Year of the Burial' was its heaviness.  It moved at a solid pace through six tracks of Black Sabbath riffs and solid drumming.  Their latest, 'Red Skies & Dead Eyes' [SSR-068] has only improved on the winning formula and captures a stronger sense of the band's unique identity.

Tombstones put their best foot forward with opening track "Black Moon" which takes the listener to three levels of heaviness.  The first level starts off during the opening pre-verse part of the song with a slippery riff that brings to mind Windhand's latest album.  But then, as though exposed from the underworld by violent earthquake, the main riff kicks in, heavy, chugging and meaning business.  Some strong vocal harmonies during the chorus lead into a third tier of heaviness and it's positively brain liquifying.  Seemingly caused by a sudden earth shift, the song starts to slide sideways towards the listener's own personal choppy doom.  It all happens so suddenly, one minute the earth is pushing upward in upheaval, the next it's sliding sideways.  "King of Daze" keeps the energy level high and the grooves tight, the song is like the meeting place between Conan and High on Fire, swampy in places, boisterous in others.

When talking about Tombstones heaviness, it would be easy to become lost in an ecstasy of similes and metaphor, throwing out such phrases as Atomic Weapon, Nuclear Warhead or Weapons of Mass Destruction, but "Obstfelder" takes me to a place and time before the splitting of the atom, but remains very much on the field of battle.  This 10 minute megalith draws immediately to mind the image of trench warfare.  It brings me to The Great War wherein soldiers on horseback fought alongside tanks, Enemy Aces circled the skies for the first time and U-Boats ensured that no place on earth was safe and there could never be a moment's rest from eternal vigilance.  The song is slow and muddy.  The danger of infection looms constantly.  This is the moment where the band fully embraces its own power, reveling in it, wallowing in it.  They become heavy-happy and the band have now become a danger to all around them.  It's easy to imagine how the band could become drunk on their own heaviness.  Just plug in, make a chord and slice away ... let it ring ... and ring ... and ring ... then chop away again.  In fact, it seems like the most natural approach in the whole world for a band this heavy to take.

"The Other Eye" continues those old battlefield feelings with a couple minute intro which sounds like it was lifted directly from the theater of conflict.  Much of the war torn atmosphere comes from the drums of Jørn Inge Woldmo, whose drumwork on the album as a whole is at different times atmospheric (not an easy feat to pull off), pummeling and downright groovy.  The song then spills out into an evil sounding Black Sabbath-like riff.  It's a phrase you may have heard a thousand times in doom reviews, but Ole Christian Helstad (bass / vocals) and Bjørn-Viggo Godtland (guitar / vocals) defy the odds by managing to keep it fresh with an unexpected twist or turn or two.  The title track whips things back up into an energetic frenzy once again with an all out vocal performance and a waltzy groove, played double time by Woldmo, bringing the album into its third phase and beginning to complete the circle.

'Red Skies & Dead Eyes' is on full streaming down on the player below, but it's not available for download from bandcamp, you're going to have to order it through Soulseller Records like I did, but don't worry, they're good people there.  You can also find the album on itunes, it's full of chubby riffs, chunky refrains and choppy atmospheres.

Highlights include: "Black Moon" and "Obstfelder"

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 44:06

From: Oslo, Norway

Genre: Doom, Sludge

Reminds me of: Black Sabbath, Conan, Windhand, Yidhra

Release Date: October 9, 2013

Tombstones on facebook


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