Review: Tribulation – Down Below
“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”, this is what Count Dracula would say of Tribulation‘s last record: Down Below.
Tribulation took the world by storm since the very beginning of their ghoulish career. Clad in pitch black and channeling a primitive brand of melodic metal, the Swedes conquered the underground, gaining the favors of the dark masses.
After a succeeding couple of records, deeply rooted in the moody Scandinavian death metal, everyone knew they were about to morph into a different entity. With their debut, The Horror, they firmly stood inside the sorrowful mysteries of the dark palaces of imagination, however, with the release of The Formulas of Death, the Tribulation journey reached new horizons, adding influences from old-school psychedelics into their already concise formula. Nevertheless, the revision of their sound came with Children of the Night, which meant a turn of band towards a revisionist gothic passion.
2018 welcomes us with Down Below, a nine track powerhouse of romantic darkness, devoid from all pretentions and with a band focused in expand his own mythos. Stay close to me while we enter the depths of the new temple of this cult.
For those melomaniacs who put their black faith into Children of Night terrifying trademark of vintage sensuality will be pleased to engage into the track list of Down Below. All the stylistic elements of their previous album are in here, embedded into each melody, but considering a few surprises which injects new blood to the formula. Also, it is safe to warn that, if your palate disdained the last directions of the band, this new record will not gain your putrid heart no more.
Thus, Tribulation respectfully adhere their guns towards a logical continuation of this style. Those wonderful metaphors of Cure-esque rhythmic and gloomy proto-metal harmonization are still employed as a rich framework for guitarists Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hultén to wander around the tapestries of their atmospheric edge.
Nonetheless, the slow rhythms and embellishment of the keyboards, along the stellar drumming of newcomer Oscar Leander (ex-Deathstars), is what characterize the overall narrative inside Down Below. Introduction comes at hand with “The Lament”, which after an obscure wall of chords ringing out of the malevolent guitars reveals the common denominator of this down-tempo quasi-funeral march. The song moves along a steady pace in which the keyboards gently support the dark notes of the melodic lines.
Vocalist Johannes Andersson serves once again the double duty behind the microphones and the bass. Akin to his previous records, the raspy grunts of Andersson are delivered in a paused articulated way, with few variations of its cold approach of this technique. However, the lyrics are constructed with plenty of vocal hooks that give him the chance to deliver a very melodic work to the verses and choruses, without having him doing clean vocals. This is patent in this intro, in which the verses are repeated after an instrumental breakdown in a cathartic manner. In these grunts, the vocalist repeats the lines “Sanctum, Sanctum, Sanctum”, brewing the carefully linguistic formulae of legends of the dark music, like Robert Smith, who put in paper different rhetoric resources to serve the musical pieces in different dimensions.
After this great introduction, the killer cut “Nightbound” shines like a black sun and establish itself as my favorite song on the Down Below track list. The composition has it all: a wonderful circular Thin Lizzy-esque riffing which is constantly transformed by the bass and drum sections. The guitar work is frankly stellar; serving a composition that comes back and forth from the calmness to the most metallic edge of the entire album.
From this on, Tribulation occasionally descends into riff madness, sometimes penned from metal or folk-like structures, but this time they paired this influences with a more atmospheric mindset towards their obscure melodic metal brand. In this department, the band is also pretty competent, being “Purgatorio”, an instrumental piece that cuts the record in half with pillars of synths and haunting female vocals, the revelation of the bunch.
Perhaps, the mid-tempo structures, repeated along most of the track list, could be the only low point for those wanting for variety. But the sober-mind behind the riff writing compensates the need for speed and gives the band the opportunity to transform moments of melancholy, inside their topics of fantastical death and majestic dark creatures, drenched with gothic ink.
From the second half, it is worth noting the old-school throwback of “Lacrimosa”, a track which merge into a death’n’roll chimera in terms of second with some sparks of the new atmospheric approach. The same happens with “The World”, another impressive track that takes advantage of a low-key melodic pattern to conjure otherworldly vibrations with a nice traditional metal solo. Album’s closer, “Here be Dragons”, is the closer Tribulation has been to the so-called “epic” territories with its music, resulting in a long composition with time enough to breathe dynamism through short instrumental breaks that induces a perennial sense of drama.
Perhaps are the strained vocals, the crunchy but warm production values (heralded by the same person who mixed and produced In Solitude last recording); or maybe it is the songs themselves that speaks in an damp ethereal echoing chamber paired with the aesthetic cultivated by the band very carefully during their career. Whatever is happening under this red sky, circled by gargoyles and haunted by the screams of the dead, the Swedish gothic metallers nailed the magick of transportation into another place.
In Children of the Night, I felt the narrative was directed towards ethereal entities, goddesses and beings dwelling in the occult. Following that perception, I believe they scored a new chapter with this album, incorporating their Gothic into a sonic journey that is more centered on the worlds, ambiences and places located deep inside the tragic, yet beautiful, supernatural mythos we all have inside our mortal cocoon.
For those dark dwellers, seeking new perspectives through the mystery of the melodies, Down Below is an excellent evocative voyage. In disguise it is a simple album, but it hides secrets in each passage. It is a shame this band is always compared with the marketing machinery of Ghost, because I believe that Tribulation is not a vain retro-rehearsal machine.
For all of this, I concede Down Below a total of 4 of 5 flaming toilets to these “nightbound” gentleman.
Tribulation’s Down Below is out now under the Century Media Records banner. Check all album’s editions and buy them here or check them out on Spotify. Remember to check their social media profiles to know more about their shows.