THAT A BAND called Tombs finds itself preoccupied with questions of mortality doesn't come as a surprise. But frontman Mike Hill's ideas about what happens after the lights go out have changed a bit since his band released the colossal Path of Totality in 2011, and that's reflected in the band's third LP, Savage Gold.
"I'm pretty open about some of the psychedelic experiences I've had over the past few years. I'm not necessarily saying that our consciousness is intact after we die, but I feel like energy is transformed into another state," says Hill, while also explaining that a number of deaths have occurred within his circle of friends and family in the past years. "Looking back on it, I can see clearly that those experiences affected the writing and tone of the album."
While Savage Gold grapples lyrically with metaphysical questions, musically it's the most pulverizing set the band has produced. There aren't any drastic changes to the Tombs template—it's still a hardcore and black-metal gumbo seasoned with post-punk—but there's greater clarity here, which gives the record a sharper edge.
"Even though I like the way all of our records sound, I've always felt there was an element missing," Hill explains. "A lot of the details were lost maybe in the atmosphere of our last couple of records. I think that we sacrificed a lot of the technical aspects of our playing to atmosphere and to have this dark, cavernous vibe."
After hearing the work Erik Rutan had done with Goatwhore, Hill decided he was the guy for the job.
"I personally come from a more raw, Celtic Frost, Venom, Darkthrone kind of thing, and Rutan was in Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal, Ripping Corpse, all these more technical bands," he says. "Really, I just wanted someone on board with the recording who would just coach us into what we needed to do technically. Songwriting-wise, playing-wise, all that stuff, we've got that covered, but I always felt like we needed someone with a more technical mind to help us achieve the sounds that we wanted on this new record."
Getting that sound was a matter of addition by subtraction. Gone are many of the effects and synth flourishes that used to color Tombs' negative spaces, making Savage Gold more direct and pummeling than Path. But it's the existential anxieties that Hill barks over the bulldozing music that drive the band.
"People ask me, because I try to stay real busy these days, 'Why are you doing all this stuff?' Well, my biggest fear is not getting things complete or not realizing things that are possible within my lifetime," Hill says. "A blink of an eye and it's over. That's a big motivator for me."