If there’s one thing I love, it’s a discography with a sense of narrative. One with an ability to champion individual releases yet chart a band’s growth. And, sure enough, if Tomb Mold‘s debut Primordial Malignity saw the thing crawling out of its bile-blasted pit, then 2018’s Manor of Infinite Forms sloughed off the embryonic muck to reveal a genetically volatile predator. The Canadians’ second album impressed me with a lust for fresh blood inside such a rigidly defined genre. But somewhere along the lines, the enhanced writing wanted for the debut’s mucosal charm.1 Little over a year later, Tomb Mold have returned with a third death metal opus, and things have changed. Planetary Clairvoyance is drastically evolved. Now in our midst is a star-spawned abomination, multi-formed and voracious. If the preceding records were a baring of teeth, then this collection is surely the war-turn for this dread conqueror worm.
Tomb Mold‘s Finnish influences have always been clear. The anomaly of Demilich and crush of Convulse remain intact, but Planetary Clairvoyance has managed to streamline itself with a balance few bands manage. The subtle economy applied to the rhythms is evident but in no way is brutality and depth compromised in the face of immediacy. “Beg for Life” thrills with a sundry of choppy mid-paced lines. However, upon closer inspection, many of the riffs are actually permutations of the same hook, accelerating and decelerating in a pinch. A simple dedication to minor repetition has yielded great results. Although this isn’t to say that Tomb Mold‘s ability to unzip and reform their creative DNA doesn’t remain. The title-track ushers in an array of capricious time signatures that still manage to bore into the cerebral cortex. After a false end, the song closes with a huge isolated riff. Considering its placement, it’s almost unnecessary. It’s also excellent.
The core material exists to stoke the album’s ferocious furnace. “Infinite Resurrection” and “Accelerative Phenominae” both churn with a sensibility derived from the unholy union of Bolt Thrower and Incantation. “Infinite Resurrection” features a twist of robust palm-mutes and unsavory blasting, courtesy of drummer and vocalist Max Klebanoff. His predilection for ugly monotone growls remains, but they now occasionally expand into more livid linguistics. “Accelerative Phenominae” meets the challenge and augments its already considerable mass with Bolt Thrower‘s locomotive advance. The song boasts a penchant for rhythm that courses through its memorable verse-riffs and devastating bridge. Both of these cuts deftly illustrate the band’s clear compositional progression. All of Tomb Mold‘s previous musical attributes, from viscous violence to to irregular rhythm, are present on Planetary Clairvoyance. But now refined and unflinchingly poised.
Aside from the sheer volume of riffage, Planetary Clairvoyance also exhibits an enhanced lead presence. Guitarists Derrick Vella and Payson Power have always peppered their writing with alien notes to accentuate the transitions. Their soloing, on the other hand, has felt a tad perfunctory. Now, their leads are much more thematically relevant. From the warped harmonies in “Beg for Life” to the solo that closes “Accelerative Phenominae.” their work now appears deceptively cinematic. Closer “Heat Death,” which is clearly engineered as the finale, takes special advantage of the melodrama to deliver a scorching end. The only aspect of the album that doesn’t impress is “Phosphorene Ultimate.” This three-minute instrumental of weird sound isn’t particularly offensive, but it is irrelevant. As always, I would infinitely prefer an actual song in its place. To add insult to injury, Planetary Clairvoyance also clocks in at a taut 38 minutes. I wanted more and I really should have had it.
The truly impressive thing about Planetary Clairvoyance is its inherent quality in a genre long since devoid of originality. This is the challenge that old school death metal presents. But for Tomb Mold to divine such weapons-grade entertainment from a formula so tried and true is august indeed. Planetary Clairvoyance is currently the best pure death metal record of 2019. From songwriting to execution, it menaces on a cellular level. Just be careful when inviting this aural atrocity into your home. After all, few people realize the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims… and that which prowls alongside it.