Review Summary: You're going to meet death now... the LIVING DEAD!
Make no mistake, Tribulation are pushing no boundaries with their second full length album, The Formulas of Death
. It seems to be all the rage now to mix your death and black metal with some Frank Zappa worship and call yourselves psych death/black. The problem here is that most of these rampages through extreme metal versions of decades old drug induced jam sessions are terrible. Instead of mixing influences and crafting albums that shed new light on old formulas, most of these attempts to coalesce genres end up being mediocre to bad versions of all the elements they tried to mash together, resulting in albums that are unlistenable from both ends of the spectrum. Even at that, if anyone were to get it right, it was most certainly not Tribulation. 2009's The Horror
was a boring, tepid modern version of a bunch of riffs Entombed and Dismember didn't think were good enough to use on their own albums, that Tribulation somehow managed to think were good for theirs. Against all speculation however, Tribulation have managed to put together an album that sounds absolutely nothing like their previous efforts and is all the better because of it.
Where The Formulas of Death
works is in the indistinguishableness of all the influences that comprise the album. You've got a death and black metal template washed over by overt psychedelic overtones that sound nothing like psychedelic overtones. Instead of crafting an album where the object was to point out all the different kinds of riffs that show up (Oh look, there's a death metal riff! Oh look, there's a psyche riff!), The Formulas of Death
melds everything together into a pleasingly homogenous concoction that sounds like an extreme metal version of old Italian horror soundtracks (which is ***ing awesome). Instead of having an annoying "retro" atmosphere that sounds like Darkthrone or Entombed filtered through 14 phasers, a ton of reverb, and a Grateful Dead jam session, The Formulas of Death
has an immediately distinguishable dark psyche tone that pervades the length of the album. It is, so far, probably the best example of bringing psychedelic influences into an extreme metal palette and not sounding like a human centipede version of "death psyche" to yet surface.
Where The Formulas of Death
fails is in the fact that there is nothing really compelling about a vast majority of the songs and riffs that comprise them. Regardless of the fact that they nailed the atmosphere and gave this album a truly unique "evil death psyche" feeling that has so far eluded many of these retro chemists, most of the music is kind of boring. This was the same problem that plagued The Horror
, and, while there were other problems with that album, the main fault is that there just weren't any good riffs. There were no songs that screamed "please come listen to me again I am cool". Now, The Formulas of Death
isn't completely devoid of compelling songwriting. The highlights of the album, Suspiria de Profundis
, Through The Velvet Black
, and When The Sky Is Black With Devils
, all contain a few really good ideas that, for whatever reason, just don't come together as well as they should. There is nothing inherently bad about any of the tracks included on the album, but there just isn't anything that grabs the listener by the balls and makes them want to come back for more, which is rather disappointing considering the cohesive success of the atmosphere Tribulation have crafted here.
If The Formulas of Death
is nothing else it is at the very least an album that shows a band with a ton of potential. The Horror, it seems, was just a wetting of the feet in waters that the band quickly realized have already been pissed in by a bunch of kids. With the enticingly compelling witch death sound they’ve crafted for themselves it is safe to say that if they are able to convince Satan to hand them some better riffs, their next efforts could possibly be "the witch's tits".