Written By: Pándaros

t_o_m_b_-fury-nocturnusMetal and ambiance have a complex relationship. In the beginning, there were riffs, yes, but how much of this musical institution was also founded upon theatrics like those found in Black Sabbath’s eponymous track? If you set the original 1970 vinyl to spin, you would hear that the song begins with tolling bells and the sound of rain, not its nasty tritone arpeggio, not even Ozzy’s haunted screams. Eventually, the history of metal would become littered with bands good to horrible, KISS to Slipknot, running wild with their own grim aesthetics. And yet, for every flux of fake blood and eyeliner, for every leap in production quality, there has always been a backlash contingent wagging their fingers at those not focusing on the “real music.”

Makers of what they’ve referred to as “shadowy,” “blackened,” and “industrial” noise, T.O.M.B. ask in their own language of exploding synthesizers what would happen if, instead of making music haunted and cinematic, someone collected everything haunted and cinematic about metal and made it musical. Literally, this is a group that has crafted an entire album from samples recorded at famous insane asylums, and here on their newest release, Fury Nocturnus, they do their best to convince listeners they have found an even spookier space. The album takes a few minutes to begin, but eventually announces itself on the second track, “Awake,” when four percussive hits surge out of the writhing static. They sound like they could be hammers on a torture device, or maybe bones on a stone altar.

This beating reappears throughout the project and provides a backbone for the whirling and viscous noise, which echoes over itself in enough layers to render individual instruments or synthesizers indistinguishable. It’s a sonic structure I cannot remember hearing anywhere else (save, perhaps, the droniest of drone records), and because of it Fury Nocturnus does not rise and fall like most metal releases. The highlights do not come in punctuated moments of intensity—in fact, it would be surprisingly difficult to rank each song by speed or volume—but rather in melodic fragments that crystallize in the crushing sound. On “Darkness,” drums rumble beneath a chord progression that, played by strings, would make a mournful dirge; on “Ignite the Torch Again” and “Oblivion Dawn,” T.O.M.B. do their impressions of a doom riff, which ends up sounding something like a Mongolian throat singer fed through a Marshall amplifier; and finally, on the title track the synthesizers sync to those percussive hits so that together they can march ruthlessly to the tune of ethereal, churchly vocals.

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So the ambiance is there: T.O.M.B. can create a mood gloomy enough to remember. The next question is whether or not the metal (really, the music) on Fury Nocturnus is actually worth playing a second time. The affirmative to this follow-up is harder to get behind because as dramatic as the project’s conceit may be, it does not make for the most thrilling listen. Aforementioned moments aside, the stretches of reverberating distortion cumulatively give the impression of listening to a playlist of atonal buildups in horror soundtracks. Perhaps that is a compliment to a band embarking on an experiment like this one, or whose name is an acronym for “Total Occult Mechanical Blasphemy,” but musically speaking a good buildup demands a resolution—even if it’s just silence.

Ultimately it is this miscalculation of how metal and ambiance differ that makes Fury Nocturnus a letdown. Even if T.O.M.B. do know what it takes to build effect, they fail to pair that understanding with one of the highs and lows that captivate a musical audience. They could actually learn a lot from that Black Sabbath song, which uses the sound of rain and bells to set the stage for a song that lumbers forth in vicious dissonance, then breaks off at just the right moment into a rollicking, bluesy guitar jam. No, this judgment does not come from a curmudgeonly dedication to “real music,” characteristic of so many metalheads wedded exclusively to conventional instruments. Actually, I would be remiss not to point adventurous listeners to electronic acts whose ear for the occult makes for dynamic metal, like The Haxan Cloak and his seamless mixing of weird and somehow intimate samplings, or Aether and his drum machine taking black metal where so many are too scared (or stubborn) to go. These artists get that the music and the mood of metal, while kin, require individual attention and distinct skill sets.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Peaceville Records
Websites: tombtotalocculticmechanicalblasphemy.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/totalocculticmechanicalblasphemy
Releases Worldwide: October 21st, 2016

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    “KISS to Slipknot”, implies KISS were good to begin with

    I don’t recall seeing other reviews from you so if this is your first, welcome along! Great write-up!

    • Pándaros debuted with the split review of Agatus. He’s our newest of newbies!

    • Don’t diss KISS!!

  • GardensTale

    They really threw you under the bus with this one, huh? Good review! This is pretty much unlistenable for me, but I recognize the importance of experimental musicianship like this nonetheless.

  • I’ve been really excited to hear this. I have some interesting weekend listening ahead of me!

    • Oh boy….

      • GardensTale

        Better grab your headphones and/or soundproof room there, Steel.

    • sir_c

      oh, is it *that* time of the month again?

  • Eldritch Elitist

    I don’t hate stuff like this, but especially with all the great records coming out recently, I cant see myself setting time aside to listen to it. Nice review though, welcome to the fold! (Since I missed you on the first go around)

  • To me, this has progression, a rhythm, and frankly very little improvisation. Looking at this from the perspective of someone that enjoys noise, I’d say they’re trying too hard to appeal to people that like “music.” I would rap them on the fingers and send them back to listen to Merzbow, Cage, and Russolo. If you’re going to experiment and try to create art with sound, you have to be more careful about turning it into a rock song.

    Incidentally, this is also how I feel about Terra Tenebrosa’s new album The Reverses. Kind of a disappointment after The Tunnels and the Purging to have them suddenly writing songs in sonata form. A chorus? I mean, really?

  • Eli Valcik

    Hey, what to you guys think of the new A7x album. I am a huge fan of their previous albums, but I don’t really like their new album. What are your guys’ thoughts?

    • GardensTale

      I’ve yet to try it myself but word around the office has been very positive about it. Enough for me to give it a shot at some point.

    • Never been a fan, but I like this new one.

    • I’m yet to try it, but I’m a fan generally. Fingers crossed it’s good :)

      • Eli Valcik

        I found that the album had some cool moments but besides the song “the stage” I wasn’t very impressed with the other songs. Which is weird because I am a big A7x fan, I guess I just like their darker stuff more.

        • The Stage didn’t impress me at all when it was released. I mean the video is cool and all with the puppetry, but the song seemed meh. Hoping to he rest of the album is more in line with their usual stuff.

  • DrChocolate

    Took me like three double takes (a sextake? …eww, no.) to realize there’s a fourth guy in that band photo. Pro-level hoodie usage right there.

    Dude left of The Hoodie also looks like Mike Patton’s “I’ve done things I’m not proud of, but did them to survive” brother.

  • Angel R. Suarez

    I heard these guys live with Mayhem, Rotting Christ, and Watain sometime back. Was pretty unimpressed then; unimpressed now.

    • Seems like a pretty odd matchup, putting TOMB with those guys.

      • Angel R. Suarez

        I said the same thing. They were completely unlike the others. Most of the audience walked out to do something else while they played.

  • Sharp-Blunt Boy

    Great to see haxan cloak get a mention here. Probably the most gut wrenching, terror inducing opening to an album I’ve got.

    However, two tracks of mundanity was more than enough TOMB to last a lifetime.

  • Iron Maiden

    Ive listened to this and read about this project…Recorded in cemeteries, abandoned insane asylums, used crypt doors as drums,broke into a crypt to use coffins as drums, recorded on Euronymous tomb stone…had Hellhammer do drums and Erik from Watain do the album artwork…yep your right…this isnt black metal enough…