Fear is the Weapon Review:
If Fugazi and Helmet were to have sex, TOMBS (a trio hailing from Brooklyn) would be the beautifully heavy child of their love. That’s the only way I know how to describe this incredibly intense and provocative band, though some might say there’s a bit of Neurosis in it, minus the epic and indulgent intros and outros. TOMBS, with their experimental and nontraditional approach to metal, are a straight-to-the-point outfit that immediately captivates you and takes no prisoners. These guys, and their pseudo-sophomore release Fear is the Weapon, might just be among the best I’ve heard all year.
I’m not calling Fear is the Weapon a sophomore effort because it’s a limited-edition release (only 1,000 copies will be pressed) that’s meant to hold people over between TOMBS’ 2009 Relapse debut Winter Hours and their true sophomore album as they enter the studio to record it. Fear is the Weapon is comprised of 14 tracks of some of TOMBS’ earlier material, tracks off of a split, and demos. Given the limited availability of this gem, and the fact that it was released on November 9th, you better make an effort to get your hands on it.
An overall synthesis of TOMBS is a lot of reverb, indie guitar leads, jazz-inspired drumming, death bellows from Mike Hill on vocals with occasionally Bob Mould-esque squawking, and hardcore punk interlaced with black metal. It’s a full-on assault and a mishmash of influences, but it works and it finds resonance if not an obsessive compulsion to listen on repeat. While sonic, the atmosphere produced by TOMBS is morose, dark, haunting, ethereal, and moody—just to give you a sense of what you’re getting into. What you won’t find on this album are flying guitar solos, machine gunning, or double bass—and I kind of find it refreshing.
It’s open to debate, but the demo version of “Gossamer” TOMBS has included on Fear is the Weapon might be the strongest track on the album. Opening like a freight train running through your head with Sonic Youth-like guitar, it takes a minute before we get to any vocals or semblance of a melody. Keep listening, and you’ll be rewarded with intricate drumming that might best showcase the jazz influence. Between the two and three minute marks there are a couple of changes to accommodate the guitar solo, but after that it’s just a freight train of noise—in a good way.
While “Gossamer” is great, perhaps the most commercially viable track is “Merrimack.” OK, this might be cheating a bit here, as these are two demo tracks of songs that appeared on TOMBS’ Winter Hours, but they’re still worthy and a great listen. “Merrimack” opens with toms and snares that build intensity, accompanied by steady bass and warm guitars. There’s no screaming on this track, but along with those Bob Mould-esque vocals “Merrimack” hits double time after the midway point before entering a bookend finish.
The first two tracks on Fear is the Weapon, “Fountain of the World 666” and “Course of Empire,” are pretty basic indie fodder and the album doesn’t really start to hit its stride until the third track, “Calvaire.” It’s only here that you begin to get a sense of what TOMBS is about and how heavy they can get. It opens with pulsing guitars and thunderous crashing on the drums, which continue when Hill comes in with his growling vocals.
But TOMBS get heavier still as heard on “Monuments,” which displays extremely strained vocals and presents a deeply ominous sound. “Darker Than Your Nights” opens with a distorted bass and some harmonics that conjure the idea that you’re listening to a death knell and a minute in you enter a beautiful and dreamy section that’s perpetuated by train-like percussion. After two minutes, TOMBS breaks into song with heavy guitars and more growling vocals.
If you’re looking for the really heavy stuff, check out “Hallways of the Always,” “Gods of Love and Suicide,” and “Beneath the Toxic Jungle.”
Verdict: All in all, I can’t praise TOMBS’ Fear is the Weapon enough and highly recommend getting your hands on it—or at least checking them out for yourself.
- Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
- Fear is the Weapon
- Year Released:
- November 9, 2010
- Relapse Records
- Experimental Metal
- Official URL: