ALBUM REVIEW: Tombstones ‘Vargariis’

SSR084_cover

TOMBSTONES
‘Vargariis’
Soulseller Records (Nov 2015)
7/10

Having largely abandoned the monstrous stoner grooves that made their previous album, ‘Red Skies And Dead Eyes’, such a potent release, Norwegian trio Tombstones have developed into an altogether more hostile and foreboding proposition over the last couple of years.

And while the artwork for the band’s fourth album is about as scary as an episode of Scooby-Doo, the ferocious, aching sludge behind it is enough to give anyone nightmares. The guitars are so heavy they will distort your day out of shape, and the riffs so slow and tortured that you will beg for mercy. Think Conan with a pinch of Kyuss.

Vocal duties are shared between two-thirds of this fuzzy Oslo trio – namely Bjørn-Viggo Godtland and Ole Christian Helstad – and their finely balanced delivery results in an impactful range of agonised rawness and emotional dexterity.

The difficulty that bands face when trying to capture a relentlessly bleak atmosphere on record is trying to avoid it getting stale or repetitive. Tombstones try to leap this potential pitfall in a number of ways; from creative songwriting to entering new stylistic territories.

Their flirtations with black metal, for example, are fleeting, but they at least help make sure that the listener is still paying attention. As for the songwriting, the results are mixed. Some of the songs (all of which lumber along for around nine minutes apiece) batter at the same locked door for too long, waiting for answers that do not come. Others are fascinating adventures into the darkness that ebb and flow like a great tide of tears.

Amidst the oppression and volume, there is scattered evidence of the melody and energy that characterised the band’s previous release. But ‘Vargariis’ is primarily about sonic violence and sour desperation. It’s not pretty, but it’s full of heart.

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