I've never been particularly interested in the new(ish) wave of caveman/"boomer" death metal bands. I like Immolation and Obituary as much as the next internet metal guy and Incantation probably a whole lot less, but death metal has come a long way since those bands' heyday, and I've always preferred my death metal on the groovier/proggier side of things than the grimier. Of the new breed, fellow Bloodborne enthusiasts Tomb Mold have always been the best and most promising, but I—as I imagine many others weren't—certainly wasn't ready for the huge leap into progressive death metal heralded by their new, semi-surprise-released record The Enduring Spirit.
The progression from mindless brutality to brain-bending prog is well established within the death metal tradition. Yet, while 2019's Planetary Clairvoyance hinted at a proggier directions, the leap from that album to this had me repeatedly checking to see whether this was even the same band. Guitarist Derrick Vella getting to flex his progressive muscles a bit more on last year's acclaimed Dream Unending record accounts for some of the advancement. (Another potential lead is the alleged addition of seemingly more jazz-focussed bassist Kevin Sia to their line-up, although this appears to be the only semi-verifiable reference to his involvement with the band and the album's official press release credits Vella with performing the bass parts as well.) Maybe Vella is just that good, but the rest of the band are also right there with him, especially drummer/vocalist Max Klebanoff, whose strikingly dexterous performance here almost beggars belief as to how he'll be able pull it off in a live environment.
One of the most impressive things about The Enduring Spirit is the seemingly natural progression from its more punishing beginnings through to its latter, more ethereal compositions. Unlike the new Alkaloid album, which starts strong but quickly disappears up its own butt,* The Enduring Spirit is not whiplash inducing in its incorporation of increasingly expansive elements, with standout third track "Will of Whispers" serving as the fulcrum upon which the record shifts from the more expected prog-infused drudging to full-blown progressive metal madness. There are plenty of newer death metal acts out there worshipping Cynic and an entirely different school aping early Autopsy, but (as far as I know) Tomb Mold are the only ones doing both at once. If anyone else is doing it, then they certainly aren't doing it to such a high standard. If they are, then I need to be notified about it immediately.
*The new Baroness is pretty good, I guess, but I think I might be done with them now too. #BlueRecordOrBust!