Tómarúm - Ash in Realms of Stone Icons (2022)Release ID: 37234
I'll say straight off that this is an extremely classy and impressive debut album. The level of sophistication and musical sorcery on offer is pushing the top of the scale, and I have very little doubt that Tómarúm could become very big indeed! Very much a black metal album, and a fairly intense one at that, Ash in Realms of Stone Icons enters progressive territory through the use of complex structures, gorgeous leads and a snaking fretless bass that makes its presence known throughout. I have no doubt that fans of bands like Ne Obliviscaris will drool over the result, even if it is more on the extreme side. Despite everything I've said so far being apparent from my first listen, I've spent the last week and a bit trying to figure out just how much I personally enjoy it. Being an obsessive black metal fan, I've actually found some of the progressive aspects to be a bit of a distraction, particularly the bass, which constantly jumps out of the mix in ways that feel a bit unnecessary. Some of the tracks are also a bit longer than they need to be, making listening to the hour long runtime a bit of a daunting prospect. As the album has grown on me, these concerns have lessened, and I'm now very comfortable giving this exciting and at times quite breath-taking debut release 4 stars. I can't wait to hear where Tómarúm go from here!
2022 RANKING (58 releases so far)
15. Tzompantli - Tlazcaltiliztli - 4 stars
16. Tómarúm - Ash in Realms of Stone Icons - 4 stars
17. Druid Lord - Relics of the Dead - 4 stars
2022 BLACK RANKING (27 releases so far)
6. Celeste - Assassine(s) - 4 stars
7. Tómarúm - Ash in Realms of Stone Icons - 4 stars
8. Deathspell Omega - The Long Defeat - 4 stars
Wanting to keep testing the progressive black metal waters in Infinite feature releases with bands like Xanthochroid, Enslaved, and Dødheimsgard, I decided to check out this month's feature release in last year's Tómarúm album. Although I haven't hit a full point of interest in the progressive black metal sound, there's quite a lot to enjoy here!
This young duo from Atlanta, Georgia first started off with a one-track demo and a two-track EP. Soon after the latter, Prosthetic Records came in to add this band to their expanding lineup of bands. Tómarúm made their debut full-length album Ash In Realms Of Stone Icons that is filled with hot talented extreme progressive metal, which is quite impressive for these two young lads Kyle Walburn and Brandon Iacovella (born 3 months before my brother and me, respectively).
"Introspection I" is off to an easy start in the first 45 seconds with acoustic intricacy. Then heating things up is the powerful bass and drum blasts to get you prepared for an extreme complex journey. "Condemned to a Life of Grief" keeps up the energy in the drums that stab through the unravelling atmosphere. The vocals don't appear for a long while, but it's OK as long as you can be able to fully grasp the metal instrumentation and background orchestration in different forms. Adding to the joyful experience is such masterful shredding from the guitar duo.
"In This Empty Space" is another long blast through ominous melody, and the vocals ranging from banshee-like screams to demonic growls. The technicality is so impressive throughout this progressive track. Darkness and light are twisted around and make sure you're in for the journey rather than the destination. "Introspection II" lets you breathe for a while with calm subtle orchestration and piano. There will be more sinister chaos to come... "Where No Warmth is Found" continues the intense assault from the frantic drumming and speedy riffing. The vocals once again reign in spine-chilling fury. There's even a guest clean vocal performance by Marissa Godinez that really fits well with the vibe, despite only appearing for a brief section.
"As Black Forms From Grey" begins with doomy melancholy that doesn't last too long before the extremeness comes back on. This is pure relentless chaos with suffocating density to please the more extreme metalheads. "Awake Into Eternal Slumber" reminds of the opening epic of Wintersun's The Forest Seasons, having almost the same title, 15-minute track length, and a similar melodic progressive extreme metal sound. A savage assault of pulverizing drums and evil riffing bursts through, along with the vicious vocals. The immense emotion will make sure this long track length won't ever be draggy. There's enough diversity in that track to summarize this entire album!
How in the world do you define such a unique diverse sound? Tómarúm is so impressive, and it's quite astonishing to hear what this young two-man band can do. Ash in Realms of Stone Icons can expand beyond their limits and keep listeners on their seats for some extensive progressive epics, as metal instrumentation is blended with background orchestration. The creativity is really what set this band apart from others of this style, and is greatly worth giving this release a spin!
Favorites: "In This Empty Space", "As Black Forms From Grey", "Awake Into Eternal Slumber"
Atlanta’s Tomarum hadn’t crossed my radar until last year’s “Ash in the Realms of Stone Icons” album. Their 2020 “Wounds Ever Expanding” E.P. had drifted past my gaze without attracting my attention but on the evidence presented on their debut full-length I’d have to suggest that it might be worth me exploring shortly. You see, love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s impossible to deny that Tomarum are a class act.
Tomarum is really the artistic creation of one individual in 26 year-old vocalist/guitarist Kyle Warburn who started writing for the album back in 2017 as a way to work through his mental health concerns. He’d soon meet fellow guitarist Brandon Iacovella & they’d not only form fellow Atlanta technical/progressive death metal outfit Lunar Chamber but Brandon would also offer to help Kyle with his Tomarum project. The intention was not originally to form a permanent band but to utilize hired session musicians to fill out the rest of the instruments although the subsequent success of the album has seen Kyle committing to forming a band for the purpose of live shows. For “Ash in the Realms of Stone Icons” however, Kyle brought in talented fretless bassist Arran McSporran, Inferi drummer Spencer Moore & keyboardist Aaron Baumoel in what must be one of the most shredding groups of extreme metal musicians ever assembled.
Tomarum’s sound is quite remarkable really & I’d probably describe it as a cinematic take on the progressive black metal model. There’s a fair bit of technical death metal influence in there too with the accomplished guitar solos in particular taking an all-out progressive approach. Unlike other artists to have attempted such a sound though, Tomarum almost transcend their links to black metal because, even though they can be devastatingly brutal at times, the atmosphere on offer here has a more sombre & melodic feel to it. Unlike a lot of black metal, Tomarum very rarely sound intimidating or evil as there’s a vulnerability there that’s quite uncommon. Perhaps it’s that element more than any other that sees me resisting the urge to fully commit too & I’d suggest that this is a failing in myself more than it is a criticism of Kyle’s creative vision. I simply find it a little tough to let go of my childhood fascinations with the pure blasphemy of the traditional black metal bands of my youth which is also why it took me many years to come to grips with a subgenre like blackgaze. Recent times have seen me being better prepared for that journey but I’ve found that I’m still not quite ready to claim a record like “Ash in the Realms of Stone Icons” as a genuine extreme metal classic.
The hour-long tracklisting is comprised by seven pieces; five lengthy progressive outings & a couple of short interludes. The album is programmed in chronological order with each track getting slightly more progressive than the last, culminating in the epic 15 minute crescendo that is “Awake Into Eternal Slumber”. There isn’t a weak track included but, by the same token, I’m not sure I’d class any of these pieces as classics as such. Tomarum’s sound is simply a little too melodic for me to force my hand in that regard. It is a very consistent record though with an undeniable air of quality being splashed on everything Tomarum dishes up. The most brutal song on offer “As Black Forms From Grey” is probably my pick of the bunch but I also really dig the one-two punch of single “Condemned To A Life Of Grief” & “In This Empty Space”. The other highlight is the wonderful rhythm section with McSporran proving himself to be one of the most gifted & creative bassists in the extreme metal scene & drummer Moore littering the run time with sprays of devastatingly precise blast-beats. I do like the cinematic way that Baumoel has subtley incorporated his keyboards too as it’s rarely over the top or overly bombastic. Warburn’s vocals are perhaps the weakest part of the Tomarum sound as they can sound a little unintelligent when compared with the sophisticated instrumental contributions around them. I’d also suggest that the progressive solos are a little at odds with the whole black metal aesthetic if I’m being particularly picky.
It’s hard to be too critical of a release like “Ash in the Realms of Stone Icons” though as it’s an incredible effort for a debut full-length. In fact, I’d be very surprised if fans of other modern extreme progressive metal outfits like Ne Obliviscaris, An Abstract Illusion & Xanthochroid don’t jump onboard this train fairly promptly too. I’m not sure the black metal community will be as keen though as Tomarum’s atmosphere is quite regularly at odds with the darkness & aggression of that scene & is mainly linked to the more melodic examples of the sound. The wonderfully accomplished presentation of Tomarum’s package makes it very hard for this old metalhead to deny though & I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of this month’s feature release to be honest.
P.S. What a great album cover too!