By Keith CarmanThe term "prodigious” seems like an understatement when referring to Tombs. Formed in late 2007 (yes, just a few months ago), this project by former Anodyne/Versoma guitarist Mike Hill, the Heuristic drummer Justin Ennis and Speedloader bassist Dominic Seita has already released an eponymous seven-song venture that’s as grandiose and ambitious as it is accomplished. Dissonant, dynamic and bold, their adventurous progressive metal pulls heavily from explorative bands such as Baroness while revelling in the aggressive, forthright delivery of Kittens. The end result is a collection of rumbling dirges that unite early hardcore’s unrestrained aggression, spurned on by voracious undertones, with the experimentation and complexity of metal’s more intricate moments. These seasoned musicians create complex arrangements intricate enough to consistently mystify, yet the songs are grounded in steady extreme roots, ensuring that an essence of familiarity permeates all. By EP’s end, the listener is contentedly battered into submission by the detuned assailants. The curious explorations of tracks such as "Fountain of the World 666” and "Calvaire” appeal so readily that we feel as though our simple task of listening is just as integral to the Tombs journey as it was for Hill, Ennis and Seita to compose and perform it.
Tombs are an incredibly new band. How did it come together so quickly? Hill: Hard work and not having a social life. Justin [Ennis] was going to be the new drummer for Versoma. We rehearsed a few times down in Philly and the vibe with the band wasn’t there anymore, so the two of us just continued playing. I had a backlog of material that I wanted to work on and most of it ended up on the Tombs record.
A seven song EP is quite adventurous for a fresh act. What is it about this band that makes you work so well together? It all goes back to work ethic. Everyone in the band is willing to go 200 percent and that is the only thing that makes a difference.
Do you feel that you gave the band enough time to grow before documenting something on disc? I plan on making many, many more records until I finally drop dead, alone in some rent-by-the-week room somewhere. Why not document everything as we go? The actual number of months that the band were together may not have added up to a significant amount of time but the hours spent on the material compensates for that.
Did you have any ideas or intentions of style/sound when you were getting going? No. Freedom. Hell, I woke up this morning at dawn and recorded a song with my acoustic guitar into my computer with a Radio Shack microphone. Maybe it’ll become a Tombs song.
In what ways do you hope and/or expect the band will grow musically with time? Everyone in the band is open-minded and willing to explore musical freedom. In other words, we’re not hung up on being a "metal” band or a "hardcore” band per se. We’re all hardcore kids, so by default the music we create is hardcore, the same way Fugazi are a hardcore band. With that in mind, we are trying to play really quiet and really loud, covering the full spectrum of feelings that fall within that bandwidth. There is no limit or borders, just 100 percent freedom.
How do you define what you are doing sonically? As long as there is an intense emotion being expressed, then I feel like we are succeeding. Take Swans, for instance, their early records are crushingly heavy and loud but their later material, like stuff on This Burning World, is fairly delicate sounding and full of melody. Yet there is still the intensity intact. There is no way of mistaking them for another band. That’s my new approach to music; I don’t really think in terms of creating some kind of killer guitar tone that sounds like a legion of other bands. I think about emotions and colour and try to translate that into music. I watch a lot of David Lynch films and get inspired to write music and lyrics. I mean the phrase "Fire walk with me” — what the hell does that mean? You don’t know what that means in a logical sense but you can feel this vibration and you understand.
How much of your previous experience/band success accounts for the immediate reception of Tombs? Maybe because people know who I am and that I will work as hard as possible to do my best. Anodyne was not what most people would consider "successful.” We didn’t sell as many records as bands like Converge or the Hope Conspiracy, who are both extremely successful. There were handfuls of people that would show up to see us though. Most of them became our friends over the years because we kept coming back to their town, time and time again, year after year. Some of these people have been receptive to Tombs.
What are your other goals for the coming year? Now that we have a record out, I want to tour the States and head over to Europe again. We are hard at work on new material, so one way or another there will be another record that will most likely be a lot different than the first one: more experimentation and dynamics. I want to produce a real coherent "piece of work.” And I want to be able to do 20 military style pull-ups. So far it’s going well.
Anything you’d like to add? I’m glad Bush’s reign of terror is coming to an end but I am not hopeful that his replacement will be any better. The Democrats have failed to come up with a candidate capable of winning and that’s really disconcerting. Even Republicans want Bush out at this point. I don’t feel very positive about my country. I love the concept of America and it disappoints me that as a society, we fall so short.