I would kill for a good atmospheric album. Just ask Kronos about that time that we discussed the atmospheric sludge/doom beauty of The Osedax around the water cooler when GardensTale mentioned he was gonna give it, AT BEST, a 2.5. Have you seen any GardensTale reviews lately? Didn’t think so. It’s intricate business concocting an album packed to the brim with ambiance/noise to the point where it doesn’t sound like, well, noise. The best album of 2019, Abyssal‘s A Beacon in the Husk, which utilized some of the densest shit this side of the pond1 to truly nightmarish effects, was a profound listen that reflected the futility of human endeavor. Then there’s Tetragrammacide, who amps up the noise for, like, shock or something, man. So if the spectrum is from nightmare-inducing to headache-inducing, where does industrial/noise/doom/black/avant-garde metal band T.O.M.B. fall?
There are three core members of T.O.M.B. (which stands for Total Occult Mechanical Blasphemy), including No-One on vocals, B. Zimimay on keyboard, and Samantha Viola on guitar. Thin the Veil is their sixth full-length since their formation in 1998, with a long history of collaboration. For 2020’s release, they collaborate with the great drummer Hellhammer (who has contributed before), Maurice “Mories” de Jong of Gnaw Their Tongues, Andy Winter of Winds, Craig Smilowski formerly of Immolation, and Duncan McLaren of Venom Wolf. Boasting thunderous percussion, second-wave black metal dissonant tremolos, and void-like vocals, all swathed in doomy enormity and a vortex of industrial ambiance and noise, Thin the Veil is an exercise in all things kvlt. However, its efforts are ultimately fruitless save for sparse moments of interest, spinning their wheels with inconsistent atmosphere and directionless songwriting.
Thin the Veil clearly idolizes Blut Aus Nord‘s magnum opus The Work Which Transforms God in its industrial dissonant blackened assault, and tracks like “Pestilence” and single “Decapitation of the Gods” are industrial black metal ragers that benefit from their brevity. The drums, provided by Hellhammer and Craig Smilowski, are undoubtedly solid, and although they stand too loud in the mix, Mories’ vocals are solid black metal rasps that fit the industrial edge. Highlights on the disc include the dissonant and tribal The Ruins of Beverast-esque “Escape from Phlegethon,” Psyclon Nine worshiper “Pure Noise Necromancy,” and liturgical Batushka-flavored “Hellmouth,” in spite of their glaring lack of individuality.
The downfall of Thin the Veil lies not in its impressive lineup, but the clusterfuck of ideas that comes from it: two drummers who trade off technique and tone, two guitarists doing different things, a vocalist whose rasps are generally too loud in the mix, and a million different ideas with the collaborators and members. It’s the second coming of Nahvalr, a project whose industrial black ideas were stellar on paper, but its revolving door of collaborators doomed its coherence. T.O.M.B. is no different, as its sound differs greatly when it counts against them, but remains far too monotone when dynamics are needed, with no transitions between. Tracks like opener “No Return,” “Lunar Reckoning,” and the title track rely on the same riff and same drumming technique (which differs in tone) throughout, making them feel way longer than their run-times suggest. Meanwhile, “Where the Wretched Lurk” is a stagnant droning doom snoozer that meanders for too long doing too little. We are also faced with two interludes in “Invocation” and “Licence to Depart,” the purpose of which is unclear, as T.O.M.B. simply remove the guitar and drums from the mix, amp up the noise, and blackenedly mumble incoherently for a few minutes.
Some albums hit the sweet spot, but T.O.M.B.‘s sixth full-length hits the exact opposite. While its collaborators’ efforts are commendable, it doesn’t remedy the fact that Thin the Veil is so incoherent it hurts. I can only see distinct good in three of the tracks throughout its overlong 45-minute runtime, but even the positives are inconsistent with each other. It’s an album that bleeds ambition, but is doomed by its poor songwriting choices: monotony in place of variety, and inconsistency in place of cohesion. The highlights are short-lived, unoriginal, and end up being downsides in their own right: a few scenic vistas on a road-trip to nowhere. It’s headache-inducing, but most headaches have a reason behind it; T.O.M.B.‘s sixth full-length doesn’t. With a legendary lineup behind such a pointless project, Thin the Veil falls into the perils of a supergroup with the inconsistency of a compilation, alongside poor mixing and poor songwriting. I can’t in good conscience recommend it to anyone.
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Essence Records
Websites: tombnoise.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/totalocculticmechanicalblasphemy
Releases Worldwide: January 24th, 2020