Tombs - Winter Hours (Relapse/Riot)

Although a promising doom prospect, does the debut album from Brooklyn-based Tombs have what it takes?

I wasn't sure what to expect from the debut full lengther Winter Hours from Brooklyn trio Tombs. Relapse has them packaged with adjectives such as "hypnotic", "blackened" and "introspective" so I was interested to know what the band would come up with.

Opening gambit Gossamer has a gothic atmosphere that you'd be forgiven for thinking belonged to Fields Of The Nephilim, perhaps even early SIsters Of Mercy. But the intrigue for me came from the vocals. The throb of the drums and distortion of the guitar had me expecting to be greated with a vocal sounding like Satan letting one rip but lo, in comes Mike Hill with a sound not dissimilar to Nurse-era Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns. Unexpected to say the least. However, after a minute or so the staus quo is resumed and we get to the inevitable blastbeat and throat-bleeding vocals.

Golden Eyes, the album's second offering, is less subtle - the thinking is more "lead in with a few dirty great chords then smash the fuck out of the place with blastbeats". The song progresses with an seemless inevitability, before we're greeted with Beneath The Toxic Jungle, a song led by over-enthusiastic drumming from Justin Ennis and little else.

But just when you're starting to get a bit tired of the same ol', same ol', The Great Silence opens in a sweet, virtually fairytale-like way, before building up to a hardcore halfbeat verse that wouldn't be out of place on a Throwdown album. The chorus has so much going on it's difficult to concentrate but we soon get into a Lamb Of God-esque second verse and all of a sudden, Winter Hours is looking pretty promising. And just to keep you guessing, the instrumental guitar track Story Of A Room slows the pace right down in a way befitting of a movie soundtrack - I would expect to hear this in the next Twilight outing as a handsome vampire gets freaky with a disenfranchised geek.

The Divide smacks of Suicidal Tendencies' Institutionalized but soon reverts to the Therapy? vibe experienced on the first track. However, Tombs kick it up a notch with Merrimack. Fans can spend the first minute or so clapping along before the slow headbanging becomes essential. There's shades of Amon Amarth in the guitar minus the layers, but this is without a doubt Hills' best vocal performance on the album in terms of range. However, not for the first time on Winter Hours, you feel like the song is building up to something that never quite arrives. It just, well, stops.

Filled With Secrets is the song that this album was made for. Starting with an atmospheric guitar similar to the earlier Story Of A Room, the beat down soon creeps in and before you know it, a pit has erupted, your pint's on the floor, you've lost a shoe and you've got someone's tooth stuck in your knuckle. THIS is what Tombs should be. Grinding guitar, brutal blastbeats and vocals that would scare your nan.

But then why oh why do we go back to the norm next? Seven Starts The Angel Of Death, although sounding like some kind of Iron Maiden/Slayer tribute track, is anything but. You could be in the pit for this and I doubt you'd even lose a mouthful of lager.

We end on Old Dominion, a song that sounds like the backing from a flashback scene in Blade Runner. It's an odd choice to close the album as it's essentially nothing at all. Just noise.

Winter Hours promises so much and unfortunately, you just end up feeling a bit empty. Don't get me wrong, it would be easy to draw parallels with such doom titans as Paradise Lost whilst listening to this album but alas, it never quite reaches that level. Tombs CAN do it - Filled With Secrets is an immense tune. But 90% of the album leaves you asking, "...and?". We need more guts, guys. More anger, more passion. And perhaps a touch less reverb.

Tombs's Winter Hours is out now on Relapse/Riot.