Almost ten years have passed since Type O Negative ended, after Steele’s death; that’s a long time indeed. Some of the ex-members got involved in several bands over time. Among these, Seventh Void, Hickey’s and Kelly’s stoner/grunge project (vocals/guitars and drums respectively), weren’t particularly active, having released only one album in 2009. However, things started to change two years ago, when they disbanded officially and continued as Silvertomb, keeping Hall on bass and hiring Joseph James (ex-Agnostic Front) on guitars and Aaron Joos (ex-Empyreon) on guitars and keyboards. Since then, they have been in the composing process, performing live occasionally. Eventually the right time arrived for the release of their debut album, “Edge of Existence”, via the German independent label Long Branch Records.
Silvertomb, being essentially Hickey’s personal project, as he wrote all the music, might be a continuation of Seventh Void, but their sound -stripped of the dirt stoner of their predecessors- differs, combining doom, grunge and psychedelic/melodic rock. Hickey placed emphasis on the more traditional, sabbathical doom, maintaining a grunge attitude in his ideas and way of singing. Hence, Silvertomb sound like Black Sabbath decided to flirt with Seattle’s genre, taking off temporarily their doom garment to reveal a more modern and rock-oriented American inner-self.
“Edge of Existence” is a multi-layered structure, switching continuously between crushing heaviness, occasional grooves and sensuous, melancholic, nostalgic moments. Black Sabbath and Soundgarden are omnipresent, collaborating to form a cohesive canvas with small strokes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin; and among these, Type O’s romanticism is somewhere there, glimpsing faintly.
Even from the first seconds of “Insomnia”, Silvertomb’s direction is evident, with slow, ominous riffs, enriched with melodic patterns and solos on top. The doom vibe is strong, but not crushing yet. However, above any element, Hickey’s voice becomes the real protagonist. His slightly hoarse vocals could not be more suitable; lengthy screams or more sentimental vocal lines govern every track, shading compositions accordingly and in close collaboration with the riffing textures.
The addition of a keyboardist during the composing process enabled Silvertomb to alter some of their ideas. Watch the grandiose melancholy of the piano intro in “Love You Without No Lies” (probably the hit of the album); sound of keys is vast, filling the air with heaviness and sorrow. However, it is the heavy groove that follows that will blow your mind, delving into Sabbath and Soundgarden influences.
Watch the changes of “So True” and how different patterns interweave. The gloomy intro with keys and violin, the heavy stuff that follows, the irony of the lyrics, the fluctuations of vocals, create a splendor of musicianship and emotions. Feel the loneliness of “Not Your Savior” and the contrast between Type O’s melancholic tranquility and doom riffs.
Listen carefully to “One of You”; Iommi’s presence is obvious, but Hickey’ vocals emerge from American fields. Silvertomb show us a different face here; tempo accelerates unsuspectingly, sending everyone to the pit. That’s something I didn’t expect from this album!
But we haven’t climbed the highest peak yet. “Right of Passage / Crossing Over”, dealing with Hickey’s struggle with suicide, comes next to finish even the last ones who refuse to submit their senses. Intensely strong drum hits signify the transition to a colossal, massive doom pattern of unparalleled heaviness, incomparable to what we heard before. It’s really crushing and mind blowing, causing intensity levels similar to those of Down’s “Bury Me in Smoke”. Upon this path, Hickey gives the most expressive and vivid performance; he screams “suicide” and you feel the despair, the pain, the agony, the inner battle he has to endure.
In “Eulogy / Requiem” the forefather of doom emerges again to lead to pure Soundgardenish and Floydian aesthetics. Adore the transition and pay close attention to the structure of the song. “Edge of Existence” ends with “Waiting”, the most grunge track of the album, that reveals what Silvertomb really are; an American rock band, setting themselves to ride free.
Admittedly, “Edge of Existence” is a rare diamond that surprised us pleasantly. However, more emphasis should be placed on some melodic parts / tracks, since in some occasions they seem underdeveloped, or out of place (like “Sleeping on Nails and Wine”).
Overall, Silvertomb offer a unique hybrid that captives our senses and travels us throughout Hickey’s personal struggles. It’s a lesson of how a band can combine different elements in a creative manner, to form its own identity. The way songs are structured doesn’t let you get bored; instead, you are impatient to find out what comes next. And –above all- Hickey’s vocal performance leads the album to superior standards; if you like Chris Cornell, you will adore him. “Edge of Existence” should not be missed; it might be the perfect Christmas box for your ears, or your loved ones.