Originally written by Michael Roberts.
The Relapse debut from Tombs isn’t an easy beast to pin down. Winter Hours may be a relatively tidy thirty-seven minutes in length but feels significantly longer, such is the diversity and sheer density that it packs. You’ll need to let this thing wash over you a few times before you’re likely to start appreciating it. Tombs explore vast chasms between metal, rock and hardcore; sludgy, doom-laden riffs colliding with beautiful far-away melodies, drums that avoid conventional rhythms in favor of frantic, ever-shifting jams and vocals that are fierce and guttural for the most part, yet strangely vulnerable and heavy-hearted at times.
The Jesu-meets-Intronaut dirge of opening cut “Gossamer” has me thinking I’ve got Tomb’s sound pegged early, so imagine my surprise hearing the band appropriating black metal guitars, blastbeats and near-death metal growls on following tracks “Golden Eyes” and “Beneath the Toxic Jungle.” But this isn’t the sound of a band merely genre-hopping schizophrenically, but rather one assured of its own sound and incorporating whatever it needs to achieve the desired effect. The second half of the album settles back into a more even slow-and-heavy template, with standout moments including the unsettling, yelled vocals of “The Divide” and the sheer brute force and emotional heft of “Merrimack.” There are many layers to what Tombs do and a lot to take in on each of these ten songs, and you’ll need to give them your full attention for them to stick. Conventional structures and hooks are scarce on Winter Hours, and depending on where you’re coming from that might be one of its greatest strengths or biggest weaknesses.
Despite having spun this album numerous times I still can’t say that I know any of its songs intimately – the whole not quite equaling the sum of its (very) impressive parts. It’s a classic case of a band appearing to have everything on paper but missing something slight in the execution. Still I’m convinced that Tombs have delivered a solid album worth investing a bit of time in, and there’s clearly a lot to like about them at this point, even if they do leave me feeling a little cold. Winter Hours doesn’t offer any quick fixes but it’s a diverse, eclectic and unquestionably heavy offering with plenty to chew over. The rest is for you to decide.