Published Jul 16, 2019Tomb Mold are a band that revel in change rather than resist it, and that's been their attitude since they began. So, it should come as no surprise they didn't play it safe with new album Planetary Clairvoyance, their recently announced follow-up to their critically acclaimed Manor of Infinite Forms.
"I think Manor is awesome, I love how it sounds, but I don't want to do it again," said guitarist, co-lyricist and co-founder Derrick Vella in an interview with Exclaim!. "I want to take everything we've done and somehow push it further."
Tomb Mold grew their sound since the last album, adding new elements to their Finnish death metal framework. While Manor pummelled listeners with mid-paced head bangers, Planetary distinguishes itself with gnashing riffs and blast beats that recall the aggression of their debut album, Primordial Malignity.
"I feel like this record is more… I don't want to say extreme, but it's more extreme in the sense that it has higher highs and lower lows. There are a lot more slow parts on this record, but then there are a lot more up-front, aggressive parts. There's not a lot of time in the middle, whereas Manor lays back even though it's so loud and pummelling."
It makes sense that growth is the theme of their new album. According to Vella, every song on Planetary is a metaphor for growth, change or something coming to its end. He goes on to break down album opener "Beg For Life."
"Songs like 'Beg For Life' sound nihilistic, but for me it's not. It's about growth. It's kind of posing a question to someone about how they want to go about living the rest of their life. Growth and change is scary in real life, and it's hard. Doing something that might one day be good, up front might look really painful," says Vella.
"But then you get on the other side and hopefully it was worth it. Sometimes it isn't; sometimes you come out on the other side better for it. I really think that's up to the person involved. "You can free your mind and die, or you can beg for life. For me, those are just two choices."
Confronting death in the cold reaches of outer space is a thematic touchstone of Planetary. While the band have toyed with science fiction before, such as with certain songs on Primordial, Vella admits there was some aversion to devoting an entire album to it. With their latest album, however, he and fellow lyricist Max Klebanoff felt the vast emptiness of space fit the subject matter well.
"Manor went inward and Planetary goes outward," Vella summarises.
Something that hasn't changed since the last record is the people behind its massive sound. Like Manor, Sean Pearson at Boxcar Studios handled the tracking on Planetary. Long days in the recording studio are key to putting out music at the rate Tomb Mold are known for, Vella explains, and Pearson's calm demeanour in the studio was an asset to their process.
The band also returned to Arthur Rizk, who has worked with bands such as Power Trip and Outerheaven, for mixing and mastering. Vella says they can trust Rizk to work independently, follow his instincts, and arrive at a mix they like.
"We often find ourselves returning to the same people we like working with. We like people we can trust. I think we all understand each other. They know what we like, and we know what they can provide. Arthur is definitely one of them."
The roots of Vella's and Tomb Mold's evolution are in the Toronto DIY punk scene, where Vella, co-founder Klebanoff and current guitarist Payson Power all played in the band Purity Control. Although he's come a long way since then, he still looks back fondly on those times, particularly seeing Fucked Up and Hatred Surge play in the back of Adrift in Kensington Market around 2006.
"I remember shows at the back of that shop always being pretty sick, but that show had all the energy I wanted from punk bands, and you also had a band like Hatred Surge bringing that heavier energy. It was like everything I wanted in one room. I thought, 'Why couldn't every show be like this?'"
Through hardcore punk, Vella would discover the bands at the crux of Tomb Mold's sound, first making the connection between grindcore act Terrorizer and death metal band Morbid Angel (drummer Pete Sandoval played in both bands).
Vella describes first hearing bands such as Demigod, Incantation and Morpheus Descends through deep dives on the internet: "Hearing that after hearing all the big names felt more real, for some reason. Stuff like Morpheus Descends or the first Suffocation EP just goes hard, and I appreciated that."
While the Finnish influence Tomb Mold were channelling at their inception is present on Planetary, there's also a more technical side, for which Vella cites Cynic and Human era Death as inspiration.
On incorporating Tomb Mold's many influences, Vella says, "You want to take everything you like, and you want to make it your own somehow. The songs that we write feel like they're very much ours. When writing songs, we'll take pieces from here and there to tip our hat to it, but we don't want to be a full on 'worship band' of something in particular.
"It's tough to strike a balance, but we try."
Planetary Clairvoyance arrives July 19 on 20 Buck Spin.