Tombs Brings "Darkness and Brutality" to HQ

The post-black metal of Tombs is darker than this photo.
The post-black metal of Tombs is darker than this photo. Courtesy Scott Kinkade
Tombs, a blackened post-metal outfit comprising seasoned New York and New Jersey musicians, is not for the faint of heart. Drawing influences from the earliest days of black metal, founding guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill doesn’t mince words when asked how he would describe the music his band makes to a newcomer.

“Just darkness, man. I got to be honest: I think the biggest factor in what we bring to the table is just darkness and misery, feelings of solitude. Whatever would be used to typify black metal. Those are the sort of emotional components to the music,” he says.

Hill started Tombs in 2007 with former bandmates Justin Ennis (drums) and Domic Seita (bass), and has kept the band’s brand of gloom going strong as the only remaining original member.

Tombs is playing in support of Origin on a tour that hits Denver on Thursday, May 26, at HQ. Abysmal Dawn, Killitorous and Teratanthropos are also on the bill.

“We've got this incredible death-metal and black-metal conglomerate that’s descending on Denver, and if you want technical proficiency, darkness or brutality, definitely come out to this show, because you’re going to get all of it,” Hill promises.

It’s clear that Hill’s commitment to Tombs and his music, which includes solo projects Vasilek and Scorpion Throne, is a point of pride as he explains how he maintains a strict daily schedule during which he carves out time to write, whether it's guitar riffs or lyrics.

“It’s almost like an author when he sits down in front of his typewriter and says let me fill the page with something. Lyrics are just ever-flowing ideas. I carry a notebook with me,” he says, adding that his “nihilistic point of view” and Left-Hand Path leanings are evident in the music he creates, which is “the whole trip, really.”

Hill’s lyrics hang heavy with poetic prose that often paint pictures of postmortem passages.

“Cling to me, empty angel, speak to me in forgotten tongues, roam the netherworld of my dreams, dissolving in the morning sun,” he screams on “Barren.”

Tombs released an EP and an LP in 2020 — Monarchy of Shadows and Under Sullen Skies, respectively — before the pandemic ground everything to a halt, and has another EP that will drop July 13, Ex Oblivion.

Hill says his “creative energy never stopped,” even during the darkest days of the plague, though he also describes that period of time using the words “miserable,” “isolation,” “anxiety” and “people around you dying.”

“It just creates this patina of misery,” he says, as if coming up with a new song title on the spot.

Hill and his current Tombs bandmates — Justin Spaeth (drums), Drew Murphy (bass and vocals) and Matt Medieiros (guitars and vocals) — still practiced regularly, though he admits it wasn’t as fulfilling as playing live. Now that they are back to spreading darkness across the Land of the Free and beyond, Hill and Tombs are, dare we say, happy. While the music is brooding and bereft, there is comfort and catharsis in such darkness.

“In the bigger sense with Tombs, you can’t have light without dark," Hill says. "There are all these evangelical Christians out there who want the world to be a certain way, but that way is completely false if you can’t embrace the other side of that spectrum, as well. There are plenty of bright people out there who gravitate to the light, and they see the light in everything, but there’s also people out there who are in the dark and see the darker aspects of the world. For whatever it’s worth, good or bad, that’s the world I live in. I’m in this darker place than some people, and that’s how the music comes out. It’s the way that it allows me to cope with living, by creating art that’s like this.”

Tombs plays HQ, 60 South Broadway, at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 26. Tickets are $20.
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