Often, when we think of death metal, we think of Swedish death metal, and for good reason. It’s dark, high tempo and has absolutely hellish vocals. What more could a metalhead want? Many of Sweden’s bands are scene-defining, having released the genre’s seminal works. Hell, Entombed and At the Gates are practically scene royalty at this point.
Unfortunately, the popularity of Swedish death metal greatly overshadows the equally great yet largely unrecognized Finnish death metal scene. Finnish death metal is much slower, more seething and has deep, guttural vocals that are sure to send the uninitiated running. Bands like Demilich and Convulse should be required listening.
However, not everyone is turning a blind eye to Finnish death metal. Toronto’s Tomb Mold surely has not. The influence Finnish death metal has on the band is undeniable, made clear after crashing into the scene with 2018’s Manor of Infinite Forms. Not surprisingly, on their latest release, Planetary Clairvoyance, Tomb Mold plunges even deeper into this sound.
Guitarist Derrick Vella said in an interview that he wanted the album to sound like “complete annihilation of everything — a cleaning of the astral slate, where everything around you decomposes, everything dissolves into nothing.” He couldn’t have been more accurate. Planetary Clairvoyance pummels listeners right from the go. The album kicks off with “Beg for Life,” a near seven-minute crusher. The song perfectly fits the theme of complete annihilation, as it is about the eternal cycle of life’s inevitable suffering. It starts off with hollow, blistering wind and soon adds pulsating, riffy guitars. Right when the vocals come in, the song erupts in brutal fashion. At around the four-minute mark, things begin to break down. Electric instruments are swapped for acoustic, and drummer/vocalist Max Klebanoff growls, “Hear the vibration of your bones as they break.” It’s eerie and weird, but that’s the name of the game for Tomb Mold.
Titular track “Planetary Clairvoyance” is equally brutal, but in a more groove-driven way. Each player is in their bag. Vella and second guitarist Payson Power both shred on the song, and Klebanoff holds it down with crushing blast beats and punishing vocals. Penultimate song “Cerulean Salvation” brings an even more downtrodden sound to the album with what may be the most horrifying lyrics on the album: “Hear the inner panic / Stammer out senseless last words.” It perfectly captures the sense of impending and never-ending death that Planetary Clairvoyance is seeking to encapsulate.
The hardest hitting song of the album is surprisingly the one without any vocals. “Phosphorene Ultimate” is an instrumental interlude of sorts, highlighted by spiraling guitars and hypnotic synthesized noises. These noises soon begin to sound like broken radio chatter, like what an astronaut lost in space might hear, drifting farther and farther out of satellite range. If that isn’t the bleakest image on the album, it’s hard to say what is.
Planetary Clairvoyance shows serious growth for Tomb Mold, building on sounds and ideas that were present in their previous work and expanding their sonic palate immensely. The album is a challenge to other bands to make something as menacing and strange as it is. It serves as a great, if not eclipsing follow-up to Manor of Infinite Forms. Tomb Mold is here to stay, and with them at the helm, nothing but good things can happen. An album this weird and bleak is bound to push the scene in new directions. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll give Finnish death metal just a little more shine.