Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance - (9/10)
Published on July 8, 2019
Label:20 Buck Spin
Dread atmospherics. Ferocious metal.
These days, there’s not a whole lot of new death metal that seems genuinely threatening. More intense than anything in the mainstream, sure, but people who’ve been regularly exposing themselves to this sort of thing for years are often hard-pressed to find recent death metal releases that seem truly monstrous. Planetary Clairvoyance, the latest from young Toronto outfit Tomb Mold, is one such album. The band’s third full-length is a dense, molten slab of intensity boasting a smoky, brimstone-infused flavor and a violent but carefully calculated malevolence that any fan of Incantation should be more than happy to welcome with open arms.
This is Tomb Mold’s third album since the band was formed in 2015. While the pace of their output has been quick, they have not been cutting corners in their mad dash to release three full-lengths in as many years. Planetary Clairvoyance is a thoughtfully crafted album, never relying simply on speed or brutality to make its point. While there are fast riffs and blastbeats aplenty, Tomb Mold enriches the album’s sound with the occasional sliver of death doom. Though there are a lot of these switches from fast, driving death metal to slower chord progressions, and sometimes to sections that feature a guitar riffing independently of other instruments, it never seems to let up in intensity, except for the occasional atmospheric moments. Planetary Clairvoyance smoothly shifts from one idea to the next and provides a lot of subtle variations on its musical themes so that you might not recognize at first how much change is packed into the album. While its mood is consistently oppressive and frightening, due in no small part to the guitars’ murky yet massive distortion, there are a lot of standout moments you won’t be forgetting any time soon, from a slow, dramatic portion of ‘Infinite Resurrection’ that repeatedly slams you into the ground to an odd, almost tribal, show of percussion in the second half of “Accelerative Phenomenae” and the slow, destructive stomp of “Heat Death.” The guitar solos are commendable as well. They aren’t particularly fast or flashy but they have a smooth, emotive character not unlike the ones Chuck Schuldiner performed during the progressive phase of his career but somehow manage not to detract from the album’s overall menacing aura.
Further compounding the album’s dark and crushingly heavy tone is the production. The guitars are given a lot of power in the studio, augmenting the riffs with a level of distortion as thick and meaty as a sub from a New York deli. Thankfully, this does not mean the bass is lost in the shuffle. Instead, the basslines are frequently audible, providing a more subtle sort of menace as they bounce along. Max Klebanoff’s gutturals, meanwhile, are pushed back a bit, making their presence a bit more subtle than expected, effectively allowing them to meld with the instruments to create a production aesthetic that’s somewhat murky but still incredibly muscular.
While this album’s vicious riffing goes a long way toward establishing its sinister personality, there are a lot of brilliant atmospherics that elicit plenty of dread when their time comes. The 3-minute cut “Phosphorene Ultimate” is dedicated entirely to molding a sound collage out of creepy, droning guitars and the sounds you’d hear while wandering through the halls of a derelict spaceship (including scrambled and unintelligible radio transmissions). Effective ambient sections like the sparse, eerie guitar lines in album opener “Beg For Life” and something that sounds like a field recording from a jungle on another planet that closes out “Heat Death” (and the album) are spread conservatively throughout and provide the occasional break from the intensity while ensuring that a listener always feels some sense of tension.
Planetary Clairvoyance is an album that strikes the right balance immediately and never loses its way. Though Tomb Mold gives their ideas plenty of room to breathe, there’s more than enough change from one moment to the next to provide a sense of growth and progression. The album may sound monotonous at first because of how consistently colossal and threatening its tone is but those paying attention will recognize that Planetary Clairvoyance is a journey through an ever-changing landscape of expertly-realized and ferocious songcraft.