Tombstalker
Black Crusades LP

Tombstalker may be a band some of you are already familiar with, being that their debut album, Black Crusades, was released at the tail end of 2015. Personally, the album was one that flew under the radar and I missed it in the myriad of releases of last year. Luckily, Black Crusades is rearing its wonderfully ugly head here in 2016 with a recent vinyl release having hit the shelves, courtesy of the dual efforts of Shadow Kingdom Records and Hells Headbangers, and even though I’m more of a “love listening to death metal in my car” type of person, it gives Black Crusades another opportunity to be checked out and appreciated by the metal loving masses.

I’ve got to say, Tombstalker pleasantly surprised me. This Kentucky trio play a down right menacing , yet groovy, grimy form of death metal that brings together a massive love for Bolt Thrower, and slathers it in all things Sweden, topping it off with some terrific God Dethroned melodies and vocal mannerisms. It actually caught me off guard, as I figured the band would employ the more standard Americanized form of brutal death metal, but these guys are clearly more rooted across the pond in their musical influence and foundation. Backing it up a bit, when I mentioned a massive love for Bolt Thrower, I mean exactly that. Black Crusades reeks of the British war fiends, with its tank crushing rhythms and grooves rolling over the listener in a burly, simple, yet chaotic majesty. Even the song titles scream of Bolt Thrower, i.e. “Chaos Undivided”, “Blood Thirster”, “Soul Eater”, “Plague Father” and “Chaos Enthroned”. I think it’s safe to assume that the Realm of Chaos album is a coveted possession in the ‘ol Tombstalker camp. Likewise, the Swedish influence on Black Crusades is just as mighty, from the d-beat, buzzsaw driven sounds of Dismember and Entombed, to the blacker melodies that stoke the fires of Dissection, and even some Gothenburg flair and sensibility.

In all honesty, all of the songs are pretty much winners on this eight track affair, seven, if you don’t count the brief, subdued yet ominous acoustic intro, “Forlorn Recollections”, that begins the album. There is an awesome heft to all of the material, with definite power, groove and a mosh-ability in the riffs, but it is in the album’s later tracks that I find to be more interesting as the aforementioned blacker Dissection and

God Dethroned influence is much more prevalent. If I had to pick an album highlight, I’d go with “Soul Eater”, the song is a catchy burner that has a wonderful mixture of In Flames, Dissection, and even Amon Amarth styled atmospherics with some flat out, straight up rocking the fuck out thrashings. Title track, “Black Crusades” and “Chaos Enthroned” are also some damn fine examples of some brutal, rollicking death. Both songs present an old school pummeling that shows the many sides/influences of Tombstalker, though both tracks do tend to linger around a tad too long. An asset worth mentioning is the great bass presence found on Black Crusades, and I don’t mean just in the mix but in really capturing the importance of bassist, Chuck McIntyre’s, sound to the band. The bass is really such an integral part of the Tombstaker sound that if it were changed or removed the whole feel and dynamics of the material would change as well. Kudos also have to be thrown to guitarist/vocalist Anton Escobar as his vocals range from some wonderful blackened rasps to cavernous deathly bellows as he shreds his frets in brutal melodicism, and drummer, Adrian Dickerson, who does a more than admirable job in keeping the tempo and beats fresh and entertaining, while still driving the material and complementing it just right.

Black Crusades is not without its faults though. While I really do like this album, and when I’m listening to it, I’m simply jamming the fuck out with a smile on my face, I do find the material to be a bit hard to recall when it is all said and done. To be honest, I’m not sure if it is truly the material, or the fact that when you’ve listened to this kind of music for thirty years of your life, things just don’t hit and stick the same as they used to. Another gripe of mine is that the actual lead guitar work could use a bit of work. Escobar’s riffs and melodic finger-work are really quite deft and impressive, but the solo department needs some stronger key points and a little flash so to speak. While this is not really a huge issue on Black Crusades, it could have helped bring in a little more memorability and overall enhancement to the album.

All in all, Black Crusades is a really strong and impressive debut, and Tombstalker have easily proven that they are a band to keep tabs on. I’m curious to see what future material from these fellows will be like, because I see the possibility in their sound to become a much bigger presence in this little world of extreme metal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
June 8th, 2016

Comments

  1. Commented by: E. Thomas

    Nailed the review, this is indeed God Dethroned meets Bolt Thrower With some Stockholm buzz and canter. Good stuff.


  2. Commented by: Allred

    Yeah, this was definitely a pleasant surprise for me, since I still miss the shit out of Dismember & God Dethroned..


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