Man, there’s been some great death metal this year. I’ve been introduced to the feculent stench of Fetid, the mind-warping riffs of Nucleus, and a Brazilian OSDM debut by Orthostat. Here to throw their beaver pelt in the ring is Tomb Mold from Ontario, a band that impressed with their 2018 album Manor of Infinite Forms. All you had to tell me was that there was a traditional death metal band from Canada on 20 Buck Spin, and my money just spends itself. Last year, I was driving through the Mojave Desert at dusk, alone in the unforgiving wastes with a half-tank of both gas and iPhone battery. Listening to Manor of Infinite Forms on repeat, Tomb Mold teleported me from my car seat to a cosmic hellscape, where light runs sideways, and savage radiation-demons bend my brain to the laws of their realm. I’ve been looking forward to a follow-up ever since, and thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long. Following a two-song tape release last year, the Torontonian Tomb Mold return to prominence with a familiar death metal flair that delves into some unfamiliar thematic territories. In space, no one can hear you shred.
The ultimate intro track to a death metal album isn’t some two-minute ambient snooze-cruise – rather, it’s “Beg for Life,” an almost seven-minute riff-fest that almost gave me whiplash. I’m probably going to repeat the word “riffs” a lot in this review because guitarists Derrick Vella and Payson Power put on a clinic throughout Planetary Clairvoyance. On “Beg for Life,” Vella and Power engage in an incredible riff duel as drummer/vocalist Max Klebanoff growls over the mounting electric intensity. Klebanoff has perfect death metal pitch, and he can snarl over anything, including a brief classical guitar interlude by Vella. Not to sound demeaning to singers in the slightest, but I can’t help but marvel at an extreme metal vocalist who plays an instrument. In Klebanoff’s case, it’s a kit, which really just blows my mind as his bass drums metronomically thump along to his subterranean bellows.
The album’s titular track kicks off with frenetic syncopated guitar notes and fast-paced vocals, but I didn’t realize that I had heard “Planetary Clairvoyance” months ago until a few minutes in. An early version of this song was featured on the aforementioned late-2018 tape release, and though I must’ve listened to that tape at least fifty times, this re-recorded cut sounds remarkably different. As a result, the song hits a lot harder than before, with heavier riffs, freakier imagery, and maximalist walls of noise. The same thing goes for “Cerulean Salvation,” another re-recorded jam in the penultimate spot on Planetary Clairvoyance. There’s a vicious riff-breakdown halfway through the track that sounds much more fleshed out and heavy on the second go-around, and the frantic fret-tapping solos call to mind alien space travel and technology. Underground pro-Arthur Rizk handled the mastering, and his attention to detail amplifies Tomb Mold’s mission statement of cosmic carnage. Listen closely to the lead single “Infinite Resurrection”: at 32 seconds in, you can hear bubbles gurgling in the background as if the band is actually recording at that otherworldly location in the cover art.
Speaking of “Infinite Resurrection,” this track evokes the most brutal and visceral imagery every time I listen to it. It feels like a terror dome of surrealist torture with impossible creatures and overwhelming with hate, as the band takes the form of a towering demonic steamroller, pulverizing me with every drum beat. Muted chugging chords pulsate like a heart beating out of control, adding to the sickly organic throb that shudders throughout the album. The slam-heavy “Accelerative Phenomenae” follows, which is where Tomb Mold was hiding their melody this whole time. Picking up on the slight vocal melodies and fun riffing early on in the song, I found myself bobbing on my couch like I was listening to the Beach Boys. But eventually, the album closes with an entropic “Heat Death,” introduced by howling wind-like screams and somewhat-proggy songwriting. We’re treated to one last bout of skull-crushing riffage, and then, a cryptic outro that sounds…squishy. Sort of like spiked boots marching through Martian fields of moist innards. Gross, but I like it.
I’ve been saying it for over a year, but Tomb Mold is the truth. For all praise that I heaped on Planetary Clairvoyance, I struggled with the final grade for a while. Truth be told, I tend to skip the electronic interlude “Phosphorene Ultimate” on repeat listens, and I almost always knock points off for skippable tracks. But, after sleeping on it and listening ad nauseam for a week, I’m comfortable saying that of all the truly great death metal released this year so far, Planetary Clairvoyance reigns supreme. This is a crew who understands death metal to its core, but even with three increasingly excellent albums, I believe that Tomb Mold hasn’t yet hit their peak. I really dig their imagery and thematic material, and I think it lends itself very well to progressive death metal. I’d love to see Tomb Mold take a page from Horrendous’ book and go deeper into the proggy depths because they’ve got the instrumental chops, a true sense of what makes death metal great, and most importantly, the riffs, dude. Until then, I’m going to be thankful for the fruitful bounty of 2019 death metal, crack a beer, and keep space truckin’ to this killer album.
Planetary Clairvoyance was released on 20 Buck Spin on July 19, 2019.
You can throw down some space credits to buy the album here or wherever dope records are sold.