18 Jul 2022 - Thorsten
Tech-Death Metal, Atmospheric Black Metal | Prosthetic Records | Release date: 06 May 2022 | Favorite song: As Black Forms From Grey
When thinking about tech-death metal bands one surely thinks about highly progressive scales, about the typically stumbling drums that seem to fall over each other, and about musicians who like Dream Theater as much as Death. Atmospheric black metal on the other is always associated with images of dark forests, hooded figures screaming at the top of their lungs for the gods of nature and to whom bands like Wolves in the Throne Room or Agalloch mean everything. A lot of people might – at first glance – guess that it is pretty hard to combine these two genres. Lo and behold, there are bands who are able to do that and Tómarúm from Atlanta is surely one to listen to!
Getting to the core-question for this record: How can they combine these two genres so effortlessly? Technical death metal is all too often only about showing your skills and not giving the songs enough soul or atmosphere. Atmospheric black metal, on the other side, turns frequently into nothing more than a cliche of darkness, nature and spirits – but without good music to support that. Tómarúm is able to combine both with the help of several elements:
First of, by making perfect use of two interludes. ”Introspection I & II” are much more than the usual instrumental intros to the next onslaught of hurricaneous proportions. Both are longer than those and because of that really stand on their own. ”Introspection I”, after its initial near-medieval guitar element, even has a whirlwind of an end which then ends in a smaller break at the very beginning of the next track, ”Condemned to a Life of Grief”. ”Introspection II” is the fourth track and thus the very middle of the record, its string section over a wonderful acoustic guitar part and a melancholic, yet hopeful, shifty piano part is reaching for the very sky that we can see on the cover. A classic Marius Lewandowski, with a reaper in the background and a human figure in the foreground, a little off-center. Mankind and its relation to our gods and our ends – a theme not only encompassing in Lewandowski’s work but also in the lyrics of Tómarúm.
The second element used frequently by Kyle Walburn and Brandon Iacovella, the two masterminds behind the Georgia-band, are soothing, melancholic textures beneath the death metal rage. Just listen to ”Where no Warmth is Found” and the little piano elements, the strings and even the second track of the first guitar solo – not even talking about the short break which is only filled by the strings. They use these elements in the background to create exactly the kind of atmosphere that other bands need in the foreground to cover their lack of skill. Not this band, they know how good they are and that they do not need to hide it.
The third element are the clean vocal passages, most obvious on the mind-blowing triplet that closes this album, ”Where no Warmth is Found”, “As Black Forms from Grey” and ”Awake into Eternal Slumber”. Kyle and Brandon have really good voices which also work together really well – and one cannot deny the soothing melancholy that these parts radiate.
The fourth and last element are surely their songwriting skills and the wonderful way they structure their songs: Oftentimes there is a heavyhearted intro with one instrument taking the lead, just listen to the bass-line at the beginning ”As Black Forms from Grey”. These are the moments when their music touches on the very gothic and doomy elements that turn “simple” black metal songs into atmospheric ones.
I cannot close this review, however, without talking about the final track ”Awake into Eternal Slumber” - more than 15 minutes of opulence beginning with some dual guitar work that other bands might not find themselves capable of even after decades of practice. When the band starts this musical rampage with a death metal part there is this little synth-part in the background which seems to try and rival the riffs by simply following their melodic lead. At the moment, when the guitars start to shred off into infinity, that part is set off and only returns when the guitars go back to their regular riff. And then, after several minutes, the whole track falters and slows down, even though it still takes a lot of fistfights, twists and kicks against that downward tempo-movement. That the track then ends on another “clean” vocal passage is just beau ideal to the max. A perfect way to end this record which shows that it is possible to create technically outstanding death metal with atmospheric parts that turns this into a new way of thinking about extreme metal music. Atmospheric Tech-Death, ladies and gentlemen.