TÓMARÚM, which translates from Icelandic to “empty space,” exists as a sonic vessel used to explore the mental void left by extreme emotional pain. Formed in 2017, the progressive black metal duo from Atlanta, Georgia tackles topics such as depression, anxiety, loss, and worthlessness over songs inspired equally by atmospheric black metal and technical death metal: melancholy, tremolo picked chords, aggressive pedal-point riffs and shred solos galore glide over precise and dynamic drumming, and are further accentuated by fretless bass, tasteful orchestrations, and a wide variety of vocal styles.
With the release of their debut EP, 2020’s Wounds Ever Expanding, TÓMARÚM began to generate a buzz online: the 17-minute release, which featured art by Mariusz Lewandowski and mixing/mastering by Colin Marston, garnered praise for its effective fusion of atmospheric black metal and technical death metal, being called “all at once tense, moving, and beautiful, and a must-listen for fans of technical music and melodic black metal” by Toilet ov Hell, as well as “so effortlessly unique on this two track release that it’s hard to resist their complex charm” by Heavy Blog is Heavy. The EP also earned a spot on Metal Injection’s Top Tech Death EPs of 2020 list.
Following the success of Wounds Ever Expanding, Kyle Walburn (guitars, vocals, programming) and Brandon Iacovella (guitars, vocals, contrabass) set to work on their debut full-length – titled Ash in Realms of Stone Icons. The seven track, hour-long record features session bass from Arran McSporran of VIRVUM, session drums from Spencer Moore of INFERI, and a beautiful cover painted by Mariusz Lewandowski, and display TÓMARÚM at their sharpest and most vulnerable to date. Ash in Realms of Stone Icons is the product of four years of obsessive work and dedication and is the ultimate declaration of intent from a band with their sights set on breaking barriers.
Today, we’re thrilled to give you the band’s first-hand track by track explanation, with in-depth commentary and interesting facts about each and every song from this opus.
Written in order of its tracklist, Ash in Realms of Stone Icons is intended to offer a cohesive listening experience that has a definitive exposition, climax and end. Across the album’s runtime TÓMARÚM’s core partnership of Walburn and Iacovella consolidate achingly mournful atmospherics with devastating speed and technical ability as a means of profound artistic catharsis. Nowhere better is this exemplified than the towering album closer, Awake Into Eternal Slumber, which stands at a little over 15 minutes and seamlessly takes all that TÓMARÚM has built before it and triumphantly conveys the essence of the young band.
TÓMARÚM is: Kyle Walburn – guitars, vocals, programming, Brandon Iacovella – guitars, vocals, contrabass
Kyle Walburn (vocals / guitar / programming): Introspection I serves as the introduction to the album, and was composed to lead seamlessly into Condemned to a Life of Grief. I used similar chord progressions as in Condemned to give a foreshadowing of what’s to come, and focused on creating something that was both energetic and emotional, capturing the mood of the rest of the record.
Condemned to a Life of Grief
Kyle: Condemned to a Life of Grief was the first song written for the album, way back in 2017. I was listening to a ton of Cascadian-type atmospheric black metal at the time and wanted to create something similar to that in terms of atmosphere and emotional weight, but a bit riffier and harder-hitting. We added a bunch of solos, as well as some synths for texture in some spots, and I think it turned out pretty well. Lyrically, the song serves as an expositional point for the album and is basically just a general reflection on my lifelong struggle with depression and the feeling of isolation that has come with that over the years.
In This Empty Space
Kyle: I see In This Empty Space as sort of a sister song to Condemned. Both are the same tempo and follow a similar structure, but Empty Space is significantly darker. For this song, I drew some inspiration from Icelandic bands such as Sinmara and aimed to capture that darkness and dissonance, but without sacrificing melody. Midway through the song, I shifted the mood so that it was more triumphant, and ended it with an epic and blasting outro. The shift in mood between Empty Space and Condemned is also coupled with a similar shift in lyrical tone – where Condemned dealt with general feelings of depression, Empty Space covers the suicidal ideation that has come alongside them.
Kyle: Introspection II serves as a breather after the pummeling intensity of Empty Space. It is solely composed of acoustic guitar, piano, and string orchestra, and uses a chord progression from the next song, Where No Warmth is Found. This interlude foreshadows the climactic midpoint of the record and one of my proudest moments in my own songwriting.
Where No Warmth is Found
Kyle: Where No Warmth is Found was intended to serve as a midpoint for the record, and was the first song where I started really incorporating more influence from technical and progressive death metal, as well as clean vocals. The song starts off more mid-paced and then goes into full blasting intensity, has the shreddiest solos on the record, and then concludes in a blaze of triumphant, fully-orchestrated glory. Lyrically, the song deals with a few situations in my life where people I cared about and trusted broke that trust, and how those situations impacted my mental health.
As Black Forms From Grey
Kyle: This is where the record starts getting really crazy, and the point in the writing process where I really started to feel confident about what I was creating. I wanted to create something suffocating and powerful with As Black Forms From Grey. Similar to Empty Space I drew inspiration from the darker and more dissonant side of black metal, but mixed that with the progressive elements that began to reveal themselves on Warmth. The clean singing and solo that close out the song are some of my absolute favorite moments on the album. Lyrically, the song deals with my introversion and how the solitude I have craved at points throughout my life became detrimental.
Awake Into Eternal Slumber
Kyle: This is both mine and Brandon (Iacovella – guitars, vocals, contrabass)’s favorite song on the album. Early on in the writing process for the record, I remember thinking “Man, it would be sick as fuck to write a crazy 15 minute album closer and end the record with a bang.” When it came time to start the closer, I definitely knew I wanted to go all out, capture all the preceding craziness, and really up the ante, but I wasn’t keeping track of how long the song was getting as I was writing. Lo and behold, I finish the song and it’s just a hair over 15 minutes, a crazy coincidence considering my earlier thoughts. On this song I specifically drew inspiration from Opeth, Wolves in the Throne Room, Inferi, and Deafheaven and created something that I feel is unique, epic, and powerful. Lyrically, the song continues in the same vein as the rest of the record, but from the viewpoint that I am at the end of my struggle with depression, and that I have lost the fight. It also deals with one of the thoughts I have struggled with the most over the years; the idea that I am a burden on everyone I know, and that their lives would be better if I weren’t around. The final lyrics of the record were intentionally written to read as a farewell – I was at one of my lowest points mentally and, to be completely honest, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could take it. Powering through long enough to make a second record seemed impossible, so I wanted to make sure that our discography had some sort of closure to it if that were, in fact, the case. Thankfully, I am doing a bit better now and realize that I have an amazing support system and a multitude of things to live for, but I still feel like the way I decided to end the record is incredibly emotional and powerful. I get chills every time I listen to it.