Saturday, 25 July 2015

Tomorrow – Divinatory Mourning (1996) / 85% / Review and interview

Tomorrow Never Dies

Review + interview with Nick Shallcross (guitars, bass)

I can't stop myself from thinking that more often than not, doom metal is a doomed genre. There's so little bands from the genre in the light of what we consider to be the mainstream of underground metal. We often get bands that are too much influenced by the apparent gods of the genre, think of Candlemass and Black Sabbath and it's fine but original and distinctive doom still exists.

For the amount of American quality doom products (think of Wino's numerous projects), we have a ton of unknown and underrated material, Tomorrow is indeed one of these projects. Their sole release recently appeared online due to Nick's label Black Swamp Collective and I've never been so happy that technology exists since it's a marvellous EP. I had the opportunity to obtain some information concerning this obscure yet interesting band and I decided to make this article a hybrid between a review and an interview.

Here's what Nick Shallcross has to say about the formative years of the band:

Tomorrow was formed in 1992 in Toledo, Ohio when Mark Reynolds (vocals, drums) and I were introduced by a mutual high school friend who played bass with the sole intention of starting a band. Mark was into a lot of heavy underground doom metal that I had never heard of before, and I was into a lot of early prog-rock and shredding stuff at the time. I remember thinking “this slow shit is awesome, it’s so much easier to play!” Our friend was’t really into doom so we ditched him thinking “how hard can it be to find a bass player?” Ha! We ended up being a two piece for the next 6 years. In spite of that, we were still writing music with the intention of it being played by a full (4 or 5 piece) band. At the time our biggest influences musically were Revelation, Saint Vitus, Solitude Aeturnus, Cathedral, Crowbar, Sacrilege (U.K.), and Confessor, although we spent as much time listening to faster stuff like Dark Angel, Death, Atheist, Carcass, and the NWOBHM stuff. We never played any shows but we practiced and wrote constantly. 

The Revelation influence is obvious since you have this blend of progressive rock mixed with a soft and soothing sort of traditional doom metal and it's not too far from what the Baltimore cult band were doing before their first dissolution in 1995. It's apparent that Mark Reynolds were a fan of the American doom scene but the fact remains that Tomorrow's music is a bit more subtle and less in your face than stuff like Vitus or The Obsessed. This lo-fi approach is as interesting to me as a full bodied album with pristine dynamics. Doom rarely needs to have a Andy Sneap production to get its point across anyway. The vocals also possess this lo-fi tone and I thought it was endearing.

This is what Nick had to say about the production of “Divinatory Mourning”:

In the winter of ’95 we went into a studio that was run by a friend of ours and recorded ‘Divinatory Mourning’, which was only a few of the songs that we had written at that time. Almost every part was done in one or two takes. Since there was only two of us and we didn’t have a PA, we’d rehearse without vocals, solos, bass, or guitar harmonies. So, when we were making that record, it was the first time we got to actually hear the songs the way we intended. I can still remember the look of shock on Mark's face when I recorded the dual solo on ‘Grips of Winter’, he didn’t even know I was planning on doing it! 

These solos are truly fun and I was as surprised as Mark was when they were unleashed in my headphones. The musicianship is interesting as it's making compromises between mournfully slow like the sad “Grasp of Winter” and slightly faster numbers like the next track “The Forsaken...” with its awesome soloing. Despite the slow approach, the songs doesn't drag much and aren't 10 minutes like with some similar bands. Speaking of similarities, I was reminded of early Warning (coincidentally the debuts of both artists were released in 1996). The vocals in particular have this soft vibe akin to an album such as “The Strength to Dream”, this was before Warning became much more whiny in this department. Mark's vocals are not powerful, his range is limited but it fits the music they play here, it's not epic or high octane doom so Messiah Marcolin's operatic style wouldn't be a good fit. I was also surprised to hear the integration of a harsh vocal bit in the third song, it was perhaps a clue to what would come with Apotheosis, a newer project formed by the two members when Nick moved back to Ohio after Tomorrow's dismantle in 2000. Here's some details about this:

We also decided to take all of our old Tomorrow material and restructure it for a 2 piece band, make it as heavy as possible, and change the soft vocals to improvised death vocals. That became our other band Apotheosis, which has two releases, 'Husk' and ‘Bane', available now on Black Swamp Collective.

The structure of the extended play is a bit peculiar, there's three complete songs surrounded by two instrumental tracks that are highly atmospheric and heart warming. I think it was a good idea, it gives a sense of completeness to the release. Nevertheless, it would had been nice to get more of “Ethereal”, the closing track, it has sensible melodies reaching almost post-rock levels of introspection but it ends after a meagre two and a half minutes.

In 2008, I came back to Toledo and Mark and I started working together again. We recorded his album, ‘Fragments’ which ended up sounding so much like Tomorrow that we will be releasing it as a Tomorrow album on Black Swamp Collective in the near future. Mark and I continue to work together in Simon Magus, with the follow up to our debut album ‘The First Year of Catastrophe’ in the works; as well as the third and final Apotheosis record.

Here's a short history of the band after this release, music is a cruel industry and quite rough on bands that aren't playing a popular style!

After that time period, we started getting better at our instruments, and as a result developed more complexity to the structure and songwriting. By that time we were starting to branch out and took a bit more of a mid tempo prog-doom approach, focusing more on odd-time signatures, layering, and displacement. We also found a bass player in ‘99 that was into a lot of the same stuff as us. We did play one show as a three piece (a metal-fest in the middle of Ohio) which we got a pretty decent video of. There were two other albums with the three piece lineup recorded from 96-00 that were never released, although there is still the possibility that we might put them out there. By fall 2000, after 8 years of spinning our wheels and going nowhere, we disbanded and I moved to Washington, D.C.

This mid tempo prog doom approach is one of my favourite styles (see Memory Driven). These unreleased compositions are the reasons I'm excited of getting more Tomorrow music and apparently my wish will come true soon enough.

Even though it was never officially released, friends, local radio metal shows, and some zines started trading cassettes of it; and from what I understand it spread around the globe a bit. 

It's fun for these sort of projects to crawl back from the shadows, there's always great music to discover, some made this year like Simon Magus (an excellent album as well, traditional doom but quite different from this release) and some made twenty years ago but in the end, doom is waiting for your soul. Perhaps tomorrow?

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