Once, many moons ago, I was sure I had stumbled upon a great and historic treasure. Indescribably drunk and shambling across the street with a friend, I dropped to my knees to inspect an inviting collection of mysteries spied on the floor. After some investigation, I truly believed I had discovered – amidst the suspiciously damp apparel – a new and unheard of species of indigenous land-dwelling prawn. It was only when my friend slapped the morsel out of my hand that I realised I was, in fact, rummaging through a patch of alarmingly robust vomit. In that moment, as fame and fortune were so savagely torn from my grasp, I learned a valuable lesson – life can often be confusing, gross and unnecessarily sticky. Three words one might use to describe Canada’s Tomb Mold, who, after tearing classic death metal asunder with 2017’s debut, Primordial Malignity, have since returned with an expanded line-up and another installation of their corporal jigsore quandry. Manor of Infinite Forms arrives rancid, raucous and ready to rot.
Like most people, I wasn’t expecting Primordial Malignity when it released – a viscous concoction of esoteric Demilich riffing, lovingly stirred into a distinctly Finnish flavored bone soup, Dismal yet delicious. Manor of Infinite Forms dares not change the recipe, but, time begets growth even in these corpse-fields, and the Canadian’s second album boasts small yet clear signs of mutation. Where the debut would swirl with virulent vortices of rhythm, chaotically deploying a mercurial non sequitur riff here and there, the follow-up seeks to stitch them together more effectively, albeit as thalidomide as ever. Max Klebanoff remains the second coming of Chris Reifert, commanding the kit with an impressive profusion of fills, D-beats and maniacal blasting, whilst recounting each regurgitation with a bubonic, if monotone, vocal delivery.
Although the epic “Blood Mirror” lurches with all manor of dank destruction, it’s “Abysswalker” that caught my attention the most. A driving riff echoes with an eerie yet horrifically catchy lead guitar line and exemplifies the enhanced songwriting the band are so clearly plying – in particular, the work of guitarists, Payson Power and Derrick Vella, who are still dealing in the same unassailable rhythms but with an added sense of cohesion, more fluidly combining and complementing their transition points. There’s a lot to be said for the element of surprise, and Manor of Infinite Forms, as a follow up does somewhat want for the unexpected, a commodity its amorphous and ever-predatory predecessor had in abundance. Although the vile beauty of the debut’s ability to unpredictably change riff largely remains, these structures are fractionally more considered. “Gored Embrace (Confronting Biodegradation)” Dismembers its buoyant pacing by occasionally splicing its verses with a helping of tastefully limited, yet darkly effective, melody. Similarly, “Chamber of Sacred Ootheca” progressively builds on its main riff like the Demigods of old, slowing, accelerating and re-ordering to more creatively vilify the ears.
Sadly, the debut’s graven compression perseveres while the putrid production is largely missing, instead opting for a comparatively wholesome finish. The cartilage-encrusted percussion and grotesque guitar sound is sanitized to a degree, and while enough ugliness remains to suitably weave the Incantation, I can’t help but miss the outright aural abomination that was previously presented. Still, the unconventionally memorable nature of the material still manages to protrude from the soil and beckons me beyond any personal preferences, as the cleaner production does somewhat accentuate the enhanced technicality on display here, forcing the songs to speak for themselves as averse to grimacing behind a novel production job.
In almost every way, Manor of Infinite Forms is the logical continuation of the pestilence already set forth in Tomb Mold‘s previous work, and while there is a notable improvement in songwriting, the album largely offers much of the same. Perpetuation, however, is often misinterpreted as a lack of vision, but a band like Tomb Mold understands that their trade feeds on violent viscera, and have wisely exercised their development without straying beyond the formula that lavished such loathsome light on their output in the first place. If this was a record on your radar, then I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed – a bile-bequeathed love letter to all us OSDM fans, without feeling the gruesome need to ape another band’s cursive…