I’ve enjoyed watching Astral Tomb develop their ghastly death metal sound, from 2020’s split with Cryptic Shift, Replicant, and Inoculation, to 2021’s EP Degradation of Human Consciousness, (which I honestly thought I had reviewed, but apparently not). Soulgazer is the band’s first album, and I have been looking forward to it.
Across five tracks and 37 minutes Astral Tomb’s death metal is at various points cavernous, brutal, experimental, thoughtful, technical, and atmospheric. The music is simultaneously both ugly, underground filth, and cosmic, exploratory trip. As you descend into the band’s foetid swampy waters you also ascend with them into the eternal realms of expanded experience. For reference points I suppose a mix of bands such as Morbid Angel, Immolation, Blood Incantation, Gorguts, and Wharflurch would give a starting point, at least roughly.
This is grim death metal that’s not purely one thing. It has much in common with the cavernous old-school style, but also has elements of crushing doom, atmospheric abandon, enlightened introspection, stargazing psychedelia, and extragalactic nightmare. One could argue that the last one may not really be a musical element, but for Astral Tomb it just fits.
The songs combine the above into very engaging slices of corruption and darkness. Amidst the sounds you would expect to hear, (monstrous growls, thick riffs, technical delivery), are many you wouldn’t, (unnerving synths, calm ambience, psychedelic workouts). Astral Tomb are skilled at combining these two facets together to form music greater than the sum of its parts.
Soulgazer is a strong, ambitious debut album from Astral Tomb, and ably fulfils the band’s early promise. It’s their best work yet, so make sure you go for a journey on its tumultuous waves.
Very highly recommended.