Review: “Labyrinthian Terror” by Nuclear Tomb

When you’ve spent the past six years self releasing a pair of EPs and playing every diner, drive in and dive bar along the East Coast (the Food Network lawyers are sharpening their pencils), the next logical step is to put your efforts into a full length album. That’s the route to remain that Baltimore Maryland Death Thrash quartet Nuclear Tomb have taken, putting their money where their mouths are and hiring engineer Sebastian Phillips (Exhumed, Distend, End Reign) at Hotbox Audio Recording Facility to mix and Brad Boatright (Poison Idea, Pig Destroyer, Twitching Tongues) at Audiosiege to master “Labyrinthian Terror“. A growing concern since 2011 they released a pair of demos before 2019 EP “Succumb” and found themselves musing on themes of madness, savagery, isolation, neurosis, Eldritch horrors and even Death by the time 2022 EP “Offer Your Life” surfaced…

It feels like a rare treat these days to find a band who haven’t had a line up change in their career, something which means that as musicians vocalist and guitarist Michael Brown, guitarist Matt Ibach, bassist Amelia Morris and drummer JD Lookabill have grown together over the past 13 years. Their debut album is very much the culmination of more than a decade of dedication to Death Thrash and that is something that shines through by the time opening cut “Obsoletion” reaches its bitter end. A fire breathing Dragon of DIY or DIE attitude that sounds like it was birthed in 1982, the caustic vocals, pulverising percussion and razor sharp riffs feel like they belong to an early Pestilence or Obliveon demo, such is the display of prowess that Nuclear Tomb display. Sounding like it was recorded live on the floor title track “Terror Labyrinthian” feels fast an loose as Brown exposes the catacombs of his depraved mind, that raw quality adding to the charm of the record. That doesn’t take anything away from the quality of the material however and the additional lead guitar from Demir Soyer (Narrow Grave, Perpetuated, Genocide Pact) adds a little bit of technicality to those scorching riffs. “Fatal Visions” smashes the clock in fear, a brutal cut that feels very much in the vein of the Death Metal bands coming from South America with an expansive drum composition and off kilter solo powering through the ear drums like a surgeons scalpel. If anything this one feels like it cuts short and could have gone on for another verse and chorus happily, such is the quality.

Proving they aren’t limited to delivering blunt force trauma and can turn their hands to sinister atmospherics “Dominance & Persecution” has the kind of eerie introduction that says something wicked comes this way. So it does as the band change gear with violent turbulence, rapidly reaching breakneck pace before sliding into the abyss once more for a mid track melodic break that bursts into a sumptuous solo. It’s not so much a deviation from depravity as an extension of it as the musicians push their boundaries as well as those of the discerning listener and it works incredibly well. Now imagine the bastard child of Motorhead and Venom came to life and delivered a Blackened Speed Thrash odyssey in the vein of Sadistic Force or Bewitcher. That’s the kind of dramatic plot twist that you wouldn’t expect from Nuclear Tomb but it’s exactly what they do with the ripper that is “Vile Humanity“. A tour de force in another sub-genre and a whirlwind of a headbangers delight, that Tasmanian Devil of a tune is exactly what the mosh put was made for. Instantly gratifying with an earworm main riff and the kind of demonic vocals that feel like you’re being summoned to worship, it’s the metaphorical cherry on the top of this black forest gateaux. Staccato riff breaks bring the deadly “Manufacturing Consent” to life in brutal fashion, Brown’s spitting, snarling and down right venomous vocal suggesting that there is something more personal about the lyrical narrative. Lurching and lumbering with off kilter groove, the old school approach is something to be cherished.

Blast beats galore make “Parasitic (Live A Lie)” an all out bludgeoning affair which finally sees the whammy bar get in on the action with a ripper of an extended solo. A short, sharp shock of a track it’s the most fun you can have without throwing yourself at an electric fence and is perfectly placed to allow the slower, more drawn out groove laden brutality of “Born Into Torment” to shine. A cut with a menacing serrated edge and main riff that threatens to boil over into Sludge Metal territory, it also has at it’s beating black heart another fretboard smouldering solo that feels like a lightening bolt up the ass from a wrathful God. This would be a natural place to bring this stain on the white sheet of humanity to a fitting conclusion but Nuclear Tomb have other ideas. Instead they offer a rendition of “Ashen Lamb” from 2019 EP “Succumb” that has been refined in the fires of hell itself to provide something shorter, sharper and more cutting than its predecessor. It’s fine margins but trimming that little bit of fat makes all the difference and this new version is perfectly in keeping with the new tunes. If this record doesn’t find this band sharing stages with Gatecreeper and Frozen Soul then there is something seriously wrong with the World [8/10]

Track Listing

1. Obsoletion
2. Terror Labyrinthian
3. Fatal Visions
4. Dominance & Persecution
5. Vile Humanity
6. Manufacturing Consent
7. Parasitic (Live A Lie)
8. Born Into Torment
9. Ashen Lamb

Labyrinthian Terror” by Nuclear Tomb is out 19th April 2024 via Everlasting Spew Records with pre-orders available over at bandcamp

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