Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound
Century Media Records
Release Date: 29/01/2021
Running Time: 48:17
Review by Steven Hooke
Sweden’s Tribulation sent metal’s corner of the internet world ablaze following the release of their 2018 album “Down Below”. To the uninitiated, it was an explosion of something new, something different, as the band delivered a hyper-ethereal, psychedelia-laced brand of black metal. To long-time fans of the band though, it was seen as a continued evolution of a sound crafted over nearly a decade, across their three previous albums.
Beginning life as a death metal outfit for debut “The Horror”, Tribulation soon began incorporating hazier and more atmospheric harmonies for the sophomore release “The Formula Of Death”, which looked like the band were edging towards a blackened death metal sound, á la a rawer Behemoth. However, 2015’s “The Children Of The Night” sought to sidestep any assumptions made of the band’s direction, blending black metal with 70’s/80’s hard rock, resulting in more melody and at-times – dare I say – “jaunty” guitar riffs, yet still drenched in the dark evil of Tribulation’s macabre songwriting abilities.
So, after years of slowly building up extreme metal with classic rock and gothic miasma, what does a Tribulation album sound like in 2021?
The answer is: breathtaking.
The manipulation of dooming melodies with heavy extremity, should be spoken about in the same realms of Ghost and Type O Negative. The way in which vocalist Johannes Andersson can clearly convey his stories of horror, death, and mysticism, with a snarling, venomous growl, rivals that of fellow Swede, Erik Danielsson of Watain. And whilst comparisons and possible inspirations can be drawn from other bands, none of them quite sound like Tribulation, and equally, Tribulation doesn’t sound quite like any of them. Tribulation manages to do that one golden, sought-after skill in the world of music in bringing together a whole host of ideas, and producing an original sound.
A big contributor to that accomplishment is guitarist Jonathan Hultén, who has slowly emerged as something of a modern guitar icon in metal (made all the more bittersweet due to his departure from the band shortly before the album’s release). As the band has grown in style and sound, perhaps no-one has evolved quite like Hultén, regularly cascading floating, atmospheric licks with a crushing underbelly of 80’s-inspired riffs. His guitar playing dips into the worlds of gothic metal, hard rock, doom, psychedelia, and almost most dramatically, NWOBHM. ‘Funeral Pyre’ especially feels like he’s conjuring up the energies of Maiden’s Adrian Smith, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and whoever was playing the strings for Ghost on their “Popestar” EP, and that’s not discounting the shred-banging of ‘The Wilderness’, ‘Daughter Of The Djinn’, and ‘Elementals’.
There’s not an aspect of rock, goth or metal that this album doesn’t excel at. From the menacing stomps of ‘Dirge Of A Dying Soul’ and ‘The Wilderness’, the Willy Wonka river rides through hell of ‘Leviathans’ and ‘Elementals’, and I hope, one day, to create anything that leaves a lasting impression on someone, in the same way the final 90 seconds of ‘Inanna’ leaves on me.
This is a remarkable collection of music. The kind that makes you sit back and think “fuck, music is actually really bloody good isn’t it?” A crossroads of Joy Division and Watain, resulting in a sorrowful hellscape that’d bring a tear to your eye and turn circle pits into black holes. The evolution of Tribulation seemingly has no bounds at this point, and while new man Joseph Tholl may have big shoes to fill, he brings with him previous history with the band and a fresh perspective in terms of songwriting.
Only the darkest corners of Hell know what’s coming next, and I for one, can’t wait.
01. In Remembrance
02. Hour Of The Wolf
04. Dirge Of A Dying Soul
06. Daughter Of The Djinn
09. Funeral Pyre
10. The Wilderness
Johannes Andersson – Lead Vocals, Bass
Jonathan Hultén – Guitars
Adam Zaars – Guitars
Oscar Leander – Drums
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