For nearly a decade now, the shadowy collective known as T.O.M.B. (or Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy) have been creating a particular brand of industrial death worship with some of creepiest recordings that I’ve heard out of this realm. I discovered the band through their 2007 album Macabre Noize Royale on Todestrieb, whose grating industrial rhythms, blasts of blackened noise and malformed black metal left my skull a charred husk, and I’ve been following their clandestine electro-acoustic experiments and rituals of corpse-abuse ever since. Now, T.O.M.B. have brought us their latest album (and first for Crucial Blast) UAG (or Undercovered Ancient Gateways, and it follows the group of crypt-crawlers through eleven tracks of suffocating black ambience and lifeless industrial pummel that strips away most of the black metal elements of previous releases, crafting a more abstract, ambient sound this time around.
The band has largely distinguished their approach to black industrial because of the sound sources they use; making their way into abandoned sanitariums, morgues, decaying crypts, and other sites of psychological and spiritual distress (such as the Pennhurst State Hospital in Pennsylvania, and Kentucky’s infamous Waverly Hills), the members of T.O.M.B. capture the natural ambience of these locations with field recorded sounds, and engage in pounding percussive workouts by banging and hammering on the very walls and structures of these sites. These rumbling industrial rituals result is a mix of Neubauten-esque bashing and rhythmic forms combined with crushing harsh industrial noise and lightless black ambient voids, sculpted into a uniquely haunted industrial ambience on UAG. As far as references go, I hear traces of death industrial (a la Atrax Morgue / Subklinik / Mauthausen Orchestra / Brighter Death Now) here, as well as the black industrial weirdness of bands like Abruptum, MZ412, and Stalagggh, but there’s also echoes of Lustmord’s early work here as well in the cavernous black spaces that T.O.M.B. explores.
There is no narrative here, nothing resembling “mood music”; each track flows directly into the next, the album crawling and breathing as a single malevolent organism. The title track opens the album with massive metallic reverberations rumble through vast cavernous realms of darkness and roaring subterranean maelstrom, corrosive distorted noise washing over the pounding sheet-metal percussion and almost tribal-like rhythms, like the howling of the dead emanating from the bowels of the earth. Then “Torment” creeps in, layering agonized distorted howls and monstrous moaning vocalizations over sweeping noise and a pulsating distorted synth, the whole sound drifting through an echo-chamber of hallucinatory horror, then slipping into the swelling subterranean rumblings, juddering machine rhythms and pounding cemetery gate rhythms of “Mausoleum Witchcraft”. The subsequent depths of the Underground Ancient Gateways are further infested with these rattling infernal engines and massive rumbling dronescapes, violent metal percussion, ghostly effects and mysterious sounds drifting across the abyssal emptiness, various nightmarish vocalizations, the pounding drums and other hammered objects a constant presence.
Some of the album’s more disturbing moments appear on the psychedelic noise eruption “Blood Vortex” that resembles one of CCCC’s extreme synth-noise meltdowns, a mass of swarming electronic glitch whirling over smeared drones and distant machine noise that apparently used actual blood as a sound source; the snarling, teeth-gnashing blood ritual chaos of the “Tribe Of The Corpse” gives way to the dank Lustmordian depths of “Graveyard Requiem”; and the twelve-minute “EMPLEH”, where the cavernous ambience transforms into twisted atonal guitar noise, distant cries, and eerie howls cloaked in thick black fog, later revealing warped, quasi-black-metal shapes as it drifts deeper and deeper into the pit. The closest that the album ever approaches anything resembling black metal, though, is on the psychotic blastscape “Leech”, where those faint, programmed blastbeats drift up out of a hazy dungeon ambience amid snarling demonic vocals and reverb-soaked synthesizers. The one piece on UAG that really gets under my skin though is “Cadaver Transmissions”, a recording of contact mic scrapings across the rotting flesh of an actual corpse, backed by echoing black drift, creating the blackest of ambient soundscapes on what is already a supremely unsettling listening experience.
Highly recommended to fans of blackened industrial and black ambience. Comes in a full-color digipack.