It’s easy to be hesitant when a band seems to check all of the boxes of a certain genre’s tropes. Paying homage is nice, but too often it’s a lacquer used to cover up a derivative sound or merely give off an air of authenticity. So when I came across New Englanders Black Tomb’s debut on Bandcamp, I had some reservations. I mean, a doom band called Black-something with a stylized Olde English logo? Horror-themed album art and lyrics that immediately bring to mind a certain ahem “Black” band’s debut? It all just felt a little bit too on the nose. Fortunately, this self-titled debut passes the sniff test.
The low BPM opener “Under the Pine” wastes little time dragging listeners into a brain-sloshing cloud of fuzz and lumbering drumming. Compared to some of their peers, it feels like a radical way to kickstart a doom record. I mean, you can actually hear drums and vocals within about a minute of pressing play instead of dozing off during some droned-out intro riff. Not to slight those in the genre who draw things out a little bit longer, but both here and throughout the record, Black Tomb seem to acknowledge that just a tinge of immediacy can go a long way in creating more memorable passages. Sinister boogies like “Turning Worm” and “Eyes at Midnight” mesh well with the smoldering slow burners like “Swine” and “Lust and Saturn,” exhibiting an impressive array of harrowing and punishing earworms.
The album is consistently dark, pissed off, and brooding, punctuated by vitriolic screams and fiery leads that creep up under a wide range of fuzzy grooves and slogging riffs that aren’t far off from the mammoth tones of Electric Wizard or a less-stoned Weedeater. The magic lies in their impulsivity, creating a sort of look-over-your-shoulder urgency as they change direction and pace just before they begin to stagnate. It compounds the power of their crushing riffs, leaving listeners hungry for more instead of burning them out, almost sadistically. In short, Black Tomb crafted an impressive and mature debut that should keep them in the minds of doom fans for some time to come.