Regret, thy name is Primordial Malignity. Standing tall and proud as Tomb Mold’s murderous and fundamentally excellent debut record, you were far and away my biggest out-of-nowhere musical surprise last year. However, to my great and eternal shame, you were released in February, and I didn’t hear you until late December. Too late for me to sing your praises. Too late to include you on my year-end death metal list. Filled with chagrin, I’ve been kicking myself in the teeth ever since. Forgive me, Tomb Mold, for I have sinned. Thankfully, you didn’t make me wait very long to redeem myself.
Aptly titled, the music on the band’s first full-length record was a furious, vile concoction of premium old school death metal produced in a fashion that would have been received with equal amounts of glee in 1992. While the sonic trappings of this record were more than enough to induce a proper bout of uncontrollable salivation in death metal fans, the riffs were even better. “Coincidence of Opposites” and the album’s title track were by themselves more than enough to fill the gullet of this death metal worshiper, and counting myself among their faithful number I couldn’t wait for more. Just over one year later, we find ourselves graced by the death metal gods with that fantastic record’s follow-up, Manor of Infinite Forms. Which, to be honest, doesn’t come without a fair bit of trepidation. Releases with this quick of a release following their predecessors are often a mixed bag of quality, frequently feeling rushed in order to capitalize on listener and critical goodwill and recording/touring momentum. This approach, though sometimes very effective, has produced its fair share of total duds. Thankfully, Tomb Mold do everything they need to do to ensure that their follow-up is a raving success. Manor of Infinite Forms is not only a step-up from Primordial Malignity in every regard, it’s one of the most thoroughly enjoyable and well-crafted death metal records of the year thus far.
For anyone unfamiliar with this band’s sound, imagine the doomy, filthy menace of early Incantation coupled with the frantic riff-making of Witch Vomit and the cosmic strangeness of Timeghoul or Chthe’ilist. It’s a compositional template that owes as much to the more modern sounds contained in the OSDM revival as it does to death metal’s earliest progenitors, and succeeds in balancing a willingness to tweak and refine an established sound while referencing the acts that created it. This allegiance to the old and driving propensity toward the new displays itself with great impact in Manor of Infinite Forms, which markedly improves and builds upon its predecessor in a few distinct ways. The first of which is, most noticeably, the production. Lifting itself from the dark cave that Primordial Malignity festered in, Manor is a full-bodied, textured affair, with additional emphasis and heft given in particular to Max Klebanoff’s fantastic drum work. This increase in production quality is heard immediately in the album’s opener and the title track, which features a delicious mix of old-school pounding, furious blasting, and doom-centric spaciness. The instrumentation throughout is fantastic, with Payson Power and Derrick Vella’s guitars blazing through some classic death metal passages with ease and delightfully jagged aggression, and Steve Musgrave’s bass adding noticeable rhythmic texture to these tracks. It’s, on the whole, a fantastic ensemble performance.
The second notable improvement over the band’s previous work can be found in the album’s composition, which is focused and coherent throughout. While Primordial may be the more ferocious of the two (and only by a tad), it lacked the admirable cohesion displayed throughout Manor. Even with a longer runtime and a few lengthy tracks (“Blood Mirror” and “Two Worlds Become One” jump immediately to mind), the band present a clear songwriting flow that is thematically and sonically consistent, making the album feel incredibly cohesive throughout. As these tracks blast by with all the aggression of a swarm of hornets, each individual musical moment builds effectively toward the next, resulting in the diverse and devastating finale, “Two Worlds Become One”. It’s a solid improvement over the less structured Primordial, and is a testament to what this band can further accomplish with time.
Outside of these two significant upgrades over their previous work, the most admirable trait of Manor is its willingness to dive headlong into its multi-faceted yet traditional vision of death metal. There isn’t a whole lot of stylistic variation here, which feels precisely planned by the band. While there are plenty of death metal acts out there willing to push the envelope in bold new directions, Tomb Mold know exactly what they are attempting to accomplish here and dive headlong into their chosen sound. It’s gritty, guttural, off-kilter death metal from start to finish, just the way they intended it. This could be seen as a knock against the record’s value to the future of the subgenre, but I don’t buy that for a second. Songs like “Chamber of Sacred Ootheca”, with its utterly ferocious chugs and propulsive death metal DNA, or the devastating “Gored Embrace (Confronting Biodegradation)” typically don’t come from bands that aren’t willing to delve wholeheartedly into death metal’s historic tropes with understanding, confidence, and vigor. Tomb Mold are willing to take such steps, resulting in a record that is as focused and uncompromising as they come, while never feeling anything less than exhilarating.
If you enjoyed Tomb Mold’s first record, you will revel in the fiendish delights present throughout Manor of Infinite Forms. This is premium, grade-A death metal that will undoubtedly make its way onto a great many year-end lists, and will most certainly be present on mine. With their sophomore effort, Tomb Mold aren’t attempting to reinvent the proverbial wheel. Instead, they are here to display their fundamentally impressive understanding of the wheel that is death metal, how it operates most effectively, and execute accordingly. Cheers to them for that, and for another exceptional record.
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Manor of Infinite Forms is out now via 20 Buck Spin, and is available for streaming and purchase on the band’s Bandcamp page.