Tómarúm – Ash in Realms of Stone Icons Review

We as a community speak often of defining and categorizing genres, but sometimes a promo comes along that legitimately challenges those definitions. Atlanta, Georgia’s Tómarúm received a generic “black metal” tag from Prosthetic Records’ PR team, and it falls short as a descriptor for what Tómarúm play. As you’ll surely deduce after giving debut album Ash in Realms of Stone Icons even just one spin, this nascent two-piece perform forbidden alchemy with myriad metallic ores, smelting a writhing, metamorphic amalgamation. It’s that very transmogrification that makes this album not only difficult to categorize but also exciting and satisfying to experience.

As risky as it may be to explore as wide a range of styles as Tómarúm have with this debut, the fact remains that Ash in Realms of Stone Icons is smooth and impeccably constructed. Depressive, atmospheric black metal forms the rhizomic root from which spring all of Tómarúm’s various extremities—technical death metal, epic progressive metal and wistful post-metal. Every riff reminiscent of Izthmi blooms in tandem with bass guitar acrobatics harkening to the wild abandon of Augury. Piano études of an Aquilus persuasion tangle regularly with Native Construct’s modern theatrics. Mesmerizing Abigail Williams-esque measures meld magnificent melody with crushing technicality of the same invigorating intensity found within Inferi’s incursions. And yet, each branch of misery grows in twisting, long-form brambles the likes of which resemble those that First Fragment cultivate. The end result ought not to thrive, and yet I find it to be complex, lively, and beautiful.

No illustration of this record’s songwriting brilliance surpasses the incredible closing duo. Encompassing nearly thirty minutes of the overall hour runtime, “As Black Forms from Grey” and “Awake into Eternal Slumber” represent a tour de force of dynamic musical sorcery. The bass-led noodling announcing “As Black Forms from Grey” ushers the monstrous team into the soundstage. From there, insane intermingling leads, simultaneously recalling Inferi and Aquilus in equal measure, create unearthly whirlwinds that effortlessly tear my face from my skull. Once the vocals drop in, I find myself transported to the same warm, naturalistic realms conjured by Izthmi. Subtle foreshadowing occurs between that and the midsection’s explosive opulence, wherein the mind boggles to witness in crystalline detail a thousand intricate layers of composition. Then, without warning, the even more epic fifteen-minute closer crashes to Earth with the force and mass of the entire Kuiper Belt. “Awake into Eternal Slumber” outshines its predecessor in damn near every respect—an exquisitely choreographed symphony of wrath and fury surges forth, each and every blistering performance from the star bass guitar to the pummeling percussion working together to guide moods and scenery towards a heart-wrenching, chorus-led conclusion. In short, the final couplet is near flawless, and should be on everyone’s Songs o’ the Year roster.

The double-edged sword is that the first half seems somewhat dull compared to the stellar back half. While the vast majority of Ash in Realms of Stone Icons captivates, I find it irksome that a two-and-a-half minute introductory instrumental conspires with three-and-a-half minutes of its follow-up to fool me into thinking this whole album lacked any kind of story development or vocal accompaniment. For inferiors possessing low patience thresholds, such an extensive prologue poses a significant challenge. It’s only after surviving this initial span that the most immense of slow burns makes sense in context, and while that pays off in spades for the remainder of the record, I felt my time cruelly taken advantage of in those initial minutes. A poor first impression to be sure, but other indulgences within “In This Empty Space” and “Where No Warmth is Found” again ask too much of me. Segments in the first third of the former and final third of the latter offer insufficient momentum or substance to justify lofty time investments—though the remaining content in each selection ruthlessly slays—and thereby suck some of the life out of what is otherwise unfuckwithable music.

As overlong as a number of songs on this album may be, there’s still so much incredible writing and performing on display that it feels wholly unjust to complain. I can’t recall covering anything as richly detailed or meticulously arranged as Ash in Realms of Stone Icons, and I predict that the score below will, in time, represent a rare instance of criminal underrating on my part. Regardless, Tómarúm are immensely talented, imaginative, and hungry. If nothing else, Ash in Realms of Stone Icons is a testament to that truth, and that alone is worth the price of admission.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: facebook.com/TomarumBM | tomarum.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: May 6th, 2022

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