Tomb Mold, who represented themselves admirably in my top ten list for 2018, went ahead and released the death metal album to beat for 2019. I am not exaggerating. This record is exactly what a death metal fanatic needs after the sparsity of DM records released so far this year. But it is more than that. It is a Doctoral Thesis in death.
Somehow synthesizing the best aspects of Bolt Thrower, Necroticism-era Carcass and Demilich into a modern sounding cauldron of oozing violence and malevolence, Planetary Clairvoyance is as near a masterpiece of modern death as you can hope for. That this thing crawls forth just a year after the fantastic Manor of Infinite Forms speaks to a band that has hit their stride and is gunning it.
All this gels into one of the best sounding death metal albums I have heard. Much as with Manor of Infinite Forms, Planetary Clairvoyance is just listenable. It is a joy to play this in the car, in the gym, in the operating theater (I would think), or as you sit at your cubicle desk doing whatever mindless thing you do for a living. And better still, if you are doing nothing at all but trying to absorb every nuance of the record. It is just a fucking pleasure.
Which should not confuse you into thinking this is an easy listen. It is rewarding, satisfying and powerful, but the compositions are still violently creative and interesting.
Opening up with a tremolo picked line that becomes a riff that becomes the lyric, “Beg For Life” drags you like a hooked fish into the grandeur that is the main body of the song. The riffing just keeps coming until a break for a baroque little acoustic interlude. This becomes a tribalistic punch up and then, again the fucking riffs. Blasts and grooves everywhere.
This segues into “Planetary Clairvoyance”, with a Demilichian chorus wielding so much roundhouse power that, if it were an actual punch, it would spin your flimsy head around four times at least. “Accelerative Phenomenae” has a chunky break that helps underscore its grooving hunks of riff.
That motif caries the record: rhythms that are not just catchy, but actively demanding. Klebanoff is a kit monster, but with a wonderful sense of taste in his percussing. Metal is such a drummer’s game these days that it seems strange to praise a drummer for what they are not doing, but Max knows when the flats need to be flat and no filler, even as he can and does toss all manner of virtuosity-laden fills where needed. He’s a marksman.
As we start down the second half of 2019, we have been suddenly bestowed several fantastic death or death-adjacent albums, any and all of which should be top-listers come year’s end. But Planetary Clairvoyance is just a little extra than the rest. In fact, although it is far too early to say for sure, my feeling is this seals Tomb Mold as all timers for death metal. Bolt Thrower, Morbid Angel, Demilich, Nile… Tomb Mold. They are that fucking good. But whether you agree with that take or not, the only way you can deny that this album is one of the best this year is to not actually like death metal to begin with.