Tomb Mold‘s debut album Manor of Infinite Forms did everything a great death metal album should. It introduced the Canadian band to most listeners via an unrelenting mass of sound, cleaver-sharp guitars and the kind of blistering intensity that’s essentially a prerequisite more than 30 years since Death, Carcass and Entombed each carved out their own respective, guttural niche. It scratched a particular itch, and given how rarely artists yearn to squeeze themselves into any particular boxes, and understandably so, there was something admirable about hearing a group conquer one specific style as if it belonged solely to them. But more than that, as with bands such as Horrendous and Blood Incantation, Manor offered more evidence of how much more that ever-expanding universe of sound could contain.
That wasn’t the half of it. Planetary Clairvoyance, arriving just a year after Manor of Infinite Forms via 20 Buck Spin, is an acceleration of the band’s progression up to an entirely new level. Much as the aforementioned Horrendous have via their past three albums, Tomb Mold are moving upwards and outwards—and they’re doing it incredibly fast. Far more crucial than the band’s productivity—no doubt an achievement unto itself—is the degree of growth that comes with it. Planetary Clairvoyance brings with it more imagination, more melody, more brutality, more variance—more everything.
Structurally, the album’s seven tracks flow in a similar manner as the seven tracks on its predecessor, with the notable exception of moody interlude “Phosphorene Ultimate.” Yet this is far from a retread or even a sequel, instead finding Tomb Mold taking their strengths and applying them to a much broader palette. The proof of this more advanced second phase of the band is all right there in the seven-minute leadoff track, “Beg for Life.” The band’s sonic wall at once feels more impenetrable and less of a blunt object. Their riffs are executed with greater purpose and intent; fucking shit up for its own sake is a fine enough goal and certainly gets the job done, but Tomb Mold are building something bigger and more enduring through epics like these.
As grand and suspensful an introduction as “Beg for Life” is, the album only sprints forward from there, each track feeling like an exercise in attempting to outrun and outplay what came before it. Remarkably, those highlights only grow a little bit higher as one descends deeper into the band’s cosmic catacombs. That’s saying a lot following a track as bombastic and grand as “Beg for Life,” but the thrillingly direct assault of the title track offers an instant gratification adrenaline quick-fix. A galloping rhythm propels the raw and visceral roar of “Infinite Resurrection,” which finds its literal groove around the three-minute mark, ushering in a majestic climax after the initial explosion begins to clear. And the dynamic, riff-driven “Accelerative Phenomenae” is as rock ‘n’ roll as Tomb Mold gets. And it’s sublimely badass.
Thematically, Tomb Mold continue to mine science fiction as lyrical fodder, though most songs are thinly veiled metaphor for more universal ideas of death, rebirth and endless cycles. Between the tentacles and time rifts, there are relatable, human ideas, and ones that prove relevant to the band’s own creative pursuit. It’s not extinction that they fear, but the inability to progress that’s at the heart of a song like “Infinite Resurrection.” Which explains why Tomb Mold seem hell-bent on taking this alien craft as far as they can, as fast as they can. In an interview with Bandcamp, guitarist Derrick Vella reinforced the band’s commitment to keeping up this streak as long as they possibly can, saying, “There’s no guarantee we can keep doing this for years: we wanna crank out as much cool shit as possible before the wheels come off.” With three albums in three years, so far so good. The true achievement is in their ability to improve and continue building outward, even as they seemingly never stop to catch their breath.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.