TOMBSTALKER_Black CrusadesPerhaps it’s unfair to place an expectation on a month of the year, however following the ridiculous bounty of goods bestowed upon us by the metal gods during the month of October, the remainder of the year seems almost destined to disappoint. On the other hand sometimes it’s nice to get back to the bare basics for a good old dose of unpretentious meat and potatoes brutality. Enter up and coming Kentucky crew Tombstalker. The band’s chosen moniker is a fairly obvious giveaway to the style of metal the trio ply on their debut long player, Black Crusades. Yes this is burly, grime ridden death that turns a cold shoulder towards scene trends, gimmicks and modern advancements in favor of a rather colorful old school palette. Tombstalker incorporates elements of the much pillaged Stockholm sound from yesteryear along with blackened dollops of thrash, Gothenburg-style melody, punk attitude and the pummeling groove and heft of classic Bolt Thrower.

Tombstalker have been lurking in the shadowy underground since forming in 2008, releasing a string of splits, demos and an EP before hammering out the raw and vibrant tunes that comprise this debut. What Tombstalker lack in innovation and originality they make up for in sheer asskickery along with a strong melodic sensibility and knack for crafting addictive old school death riffs. Busting out a trick shot via the delicately strummed notes of acoustic instrumental opener “Forlorn Recollections,” Tombstalker quickly establish their intentions on “Chaos Undivided” courtesy of festering death grooves, surprisingly deft guitar work and a soul swallowing climax. There’s a loose, unhinged feel to the material, but make no mistake, the musicianship is quite tight and accomplished, while the cavernous, distant growls fit the part well.

Tombstalker’s mode of attack is fairly straightforward but the quality of the riffs and song-writing variety finds the band operating a cut above your average retro death fodder. I especially dig the more intricate guitar passages and sinister melodies sluicing through the album’s brutish core and complimenting the barbaric rumble of tracks like “Blood Thirster” and “Fate Weaver.” With song titles derived from the Great Book of Death Metal Clichés and an endearing sound, Black Crusades is an easy album to get behind for non-fussy death fiends. Album highlight “Soul Eater” sounds like an imperfect marriage of old school Gothenburg and Stockholm influences, mixing the slick, speedy melodies of the former with the d-beat driven aggression and murky grooves of the latter. And it fucking rocks in all its enthusiastic throwback glory. Tombstalker’s strengths lay in their combined flair for melody and graveyard atmosphere rolled into a relentlessly thrashy, groove-drenched bludgeon. Black Crusades keeps the good times rolling, closing with the satisfying weight and song-writing variables of eight minute epic “Chaos Enthroned.” Here’s a song that really nails that sinister, horror-themed old school atmosphere. Church bells toll ominously as eerie melodies intertwine with grimy riffs and a steady double bass pulse.

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As enjoyable a ride as Black Crusades can be, it’s not without a few issues. Despite being a consistently solid listen, little here really grabs you by the throat or compels in the kind of lasting fashion that the finer death metal albums of 2015 do. A couple of songs are a touch overcooked and certain high points are evened out by some unremarkable song-writing. Black Crusades was mixed and mastered by Horrendous mastermind Damian Herring at his Subterranean Watchtower Studios. Disappointing stock standard dynamics aside, the guitar tone is killer, the bass drums offer ample punch and the overall sound is thick and gritty, yet easily discernible.

Tombstalker is a quality old school death metal band possessing the talent, passion and song-writing ability to deliver something more noteworthy down the track. Right now Black Crusades stands as a solid debut platter that should hold the interest of old school fans who like their death metal charred, beefy and just a little bit rotten.


Rating: 3.0 /5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label:Shadow Kingdom Records
Websites: Tombstalker.Bandcamp.com |  facebook.com/Tombstalker
Releases Worldwide: November 13th, 2015

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  • lennymccall

    Gonna check is out on name only, cause that’s a great one!

  • I don’t know how I feel about an album that is clearly entirely based on the Warhammer 40k universe. I get the Lovecraft themes, but space marines? Really?

    • I’m still waiting for a death metal concept album about Double Dragon.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Don’t know about Double Dragon but there are many black metal concept albums based on Goat Simulator.

    • grainful_bread

      That’s essentially what a few Bolt Thrower albums were, and while they may not have been the most innovative, they’re amongst my favorite releases. They went so far as to have a 40k artist draw their covers, one of their albums was called Realm of Chaos…. so there is definitely a precedent for this.

      • Noobhammer

        Realm of Chaos was my first Bolt Thrower album, and I was lucky to buy the original version and not the reissue. It’s definitely one of my favorite albums, and appeals to the 40K nerd in me

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I agree with gainful bread below. There’s plenty of precedence and scope in metal for exploring legend, cartoon, gaming and literary universes like 2000AD, Tolkien Dungeons Dragons and viking lore etc etc. As long as the songs are good who cares where the artist takes inspiration from…

      • Ok, I guess my issue is I like to know what the band is doing. Are they a parody? Are they simply writing music for space marines? How committed are they to the storyline? Will the next album feature the Dark Eldar?

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          haha I get the impression they’re pretty serious about it and may even think that they are space marines. Dark Eldar…we can only hope. It would actually make a pretty good name for a band…

    • As my disqus avatar may attest, I approve.

      Also, echoing other comments, I would add Be’lakor to that list, they may not use it often for inspiration, but taking the name of a major Daemon prince from the lore proves there is some people out there thinking WH40K is pretty metal.

  • Wilhelm

    With the dude from Horrendous at the helm, this seems a bit low on the DR, but the sound isn’t too bad. It sounds a lot like the tone on Clandestine.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      These guys are no Horrendous

  • I’ve came for the Bolt Thrower references, stay to stalk the tombs. I liek.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Such a good card

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Actually quite enjoying this. I’ve been giving it some time in the last month. Not a masterpiece but liking the approach. Great review too.