New York’s Tombstoner delivers crushing death metal and pummeling breakdowns in near equal measure. It’s not an unfamiliar combination, but one that requires careful execution. And execute it Tombstoner does with Victims of Vile Torture, the band’s debut full-length.
The band’s approach works best when the crushing death metal takes the driver’s seat. The clearest example of that is the Cannibal Corpse-like “Nothing’s Sacred,” which, aside from the breakdown and the mood-setting intro, wouldn’t sound too out of place on Violence Unimagined. A controlled chaos propels the song forward, albeit a beat slower than most of modern Corpse yet. Yet there are moments of reprieve via a few well-placed breakdowns—nothing disruptive of the song’s flow, but clearly there, an inextricable part of Tombstoner’s aesthetic. The leads, such as the one at the three-minute mark, are the proverbial cherry on top.
Peak Tombstoner is often quick and dirty Tombstoner. “Grave Dancer” kick things into high gear early but loses a bit of steam in an attempt to add some dynamism via a slower section that doesn’t have the intended impact. On the other hand, Tombstoner delivers said dynamism with some impressive leads in “Frozen in Fear.” It’s not that there aren’t effective slower passages. “Sledgehammer” has a hypnotic, headbang-inducing section at around 1:45, for example. But these slower, more effective moments are few and far between. More often than not, these slower moments lack the punch of more immediate tunes.
Victims of Vile Torture is an effective introduction to Tombstoner. Not all of the songs are home runs, but the band is far more successful in balancing death metal and hardcore than most and the peaks are high enough that the more middling songs are easily forgiven. If you have even a passing interest in the hybrid sound Tombstoner revels in, you’ll find something to sink your teeth into on Victims.