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Rockstar Pro Arena welcomes Tombs and Wolvhammer

By Gary Spencer

Photo: (l-r) Tombs’ Evan Void, Charlie Schmid, Ben Brand, Mike Hill, and Fade Kainer rise Nov. 26 in Dayton

Every once in a while, a tour package comes along that is a slam-dunk, can’t-miss occasion. That will certainly be the case when the double headlining tour of two of American extreme metal’s most popular bands Tombs and Wolvhammer steamroll their way into Rockstar Pro Arena this Saturday.

First, let’s talk about Tombs: hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Tombs was formed circa 2008 by guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill. According to Hill, he had a specific musical vision for what he wanted to achieve with Tombs.

“I have always been influenced by black metal and wanted to do something that was not just an interpretation of what the Europeans were doing,” Hill says. “I wanted to do something that was a reflection of me—combining black metal, death metal, goth, darkness, and shoegaze type of stuff. At the time, it was fashionable to incorporate black metal and shoegaze, but most of the bands lacked impact and intensity. I wanted to keep it metal and very testosterone-infused.”

Hill’s breakdown of genres and influences in the music of Tombs is remarkably noticeable across their handful of albums and EPs. Heavy on atmosphere and drone, Tombs’ songs are like cryptic audio nightmares with hypnotic, minor key melodies that haunt the soul and leave the listener with a sense of grim, brooding desperation that one might associate more with the music of Swans or Fields of the Nephilim than a metal band.

“It’s like being at the bottom of the ocean; there is no light, only darkness,” Hill says. “As you slowly suffocate, your brain releases DMT into your bloodstream and your consciousness is catapulted into a formless realm of geometric shapes and complex symbols.”

Tombs is on tour in support of their 2016 EP swan song for Relapse Records, All Empires Fall, before joining the roster for the renowned Metal Blade Records label. Hill is quite pleased with bowing out of Relapse with a strong release that finds the band expanding their sonic palette and approach to making music.

“I really enjoy the material on All Empires Fall,” he says. “It was the first record to include Fade [Kainer] on synths. We really wanted to explore the use of keyboards and synthesizers on the new record. In the past, I’ve attempted to do this myself but Fade is a master at this. For that record, I wanted to get more into writing for the song as opposed to trying to be extreme. At times in the past we wrote songs around the idea of playing fast or being technical. For All Empires Fall, I wanted to just write songs.”

And that brings us to their tour mates, Wolvhammer, formed in 2008 and hailing from Minneapolis. Similar to Tombs, the catalyst for the formation of Wolvhammer came under the banner of a very specific mission.

“The whole goal of the band was to play fast and dirty music because at the time in Minneapolis everyone was much more concerned about being overly arty and basically just aping Neurosis,” says Wolvhammer vocalist Adam Clemans. “We wanted to do something different and more sincere and more ‘fuck you,’ if you get what I’m saying.”

While it is true that Wolvhammer’s early material reeked of second-wave Norwegian black metal chaos complete with breakneck, tremolo picked, minor-key guitar churning and blast beats aplenty—mixed with a middle-finger-in-the-air punk rock attitude—the band’s sound has evolved quite a bit since then. A listen to the group’s most recent release, 2014’s Clawing into Black Sun on Profound Lore Records, finds the band exploring a more melodic, introspective, progressive, and (dare I say it) artier side to their music. The songs are longer, twisting and turning along the way, keeping the listener fully engaged and not knowing what to expect next, while still staying true to their old school black metal roots. Also remaining true to the band’s punk ethos, Wolvhammer can’t be bothered to seriously describe their music to an outsider.

“[It’s like] throwing a beer bottle in a frat boy’s face and then getting sad you wasted the alcohol,” says Wolvhammer guitarist Jeff Wilson.

Another thing Tombs and Wolvhammer have in common is that they both have specific goals they wish to achieve with their live show that enhance and complement the music.

“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the live experience,” Tombs’ Mike Hill says. “There’s a lot of mist onstage, shadows, darkness. We don’t really speak a lot between songs, just focus on playing.”

“It’s a dark, grime-filled hate fest,” Wolvhammer’s Adam Clemans says. “What we hope to portray live, in my eyes, is desolation. I want people to walk away from our sets entertained, but I also want them to be mentally and physically exhausted, like a bad fucking hangover. We live for it, we breathe for it, and, ultimately, we are dying for it.”

Tombs and Wolvhammer performs Saturday, Nov. 26 at Rockstar Pro Arena, 1106 E. Third St. in downtown Dayton. Engraved Darkness, Enkiridian, and Floodwalker are also on the bill. Show is all ages and begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance. For more information, please visit RockstarProArena.net.

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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