Like a stunning, stylized nightmare, Mike Hill's first ground-rattling growl on Path of Totality is "CHAOS REIGNS." It's enough to conjure that memorable scene from Lars Von Trier's controversial film, Antichrist, in which a self-disemboweling fox cryptically and prophetically utters these two words to Willem Defoe's character. If anything, it sets the tone for a dark, fully absorbing listen on Tombs' second album.
With Path of Totality, out June 7, the Brooklyn metal trio takes its disparate influences and distills an expansive palette using thick, controlled brushstrokes. The industrial sledgehammer of Godflesh meets the blast-beated darkness of early Darkthrone in "To Cross the Land," while "Vermillion" intones a sinister psychedelic swirl over an impressive rhythm section preparing for war. The atmospheric Goth-rock of The Cure presides over "Passageways" and "Black Heaven," as the dead-eyed stare of Swans — the members of Tombs are admittedly huge fans — lurks in unlit corridors. But while the band's wide-ranging music libraries are on display, Path of Totality functions as something new, mostly because its extremity is tempered by a dynamic push and pull, accentuated by the spacious production of John Congleton, whose diverse clientele includes Explosions in the Sky, Baroness, Modest Mouse and St. Vincent.
"To push extremity, I feel like you should also have more dynamics in the overall experience of the record," guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill said in a recent interview. "To be extreme, in my opinion, you should have the really aggressive material and then temper that with material that's not as aggressive to bookmark the aggression."
Case in point: After the meditative and surprisingly melodic "Silent World," Tombs unleashes "Cold Dark Eyes," a barrage of clustered chords beating into the decay of a doomed world. Chaos? Consider it reigned.