Review Summary: "Listen to them...The Children of the Night....What sweet music they make."
Extreme metal has been experimented with and, to a certain degree, molested so much that it almost seems exhaustive to find anything fresh or original anymore. It's both a shame and a grand expectation to just listen to an album and criticize it as such, but thankfully there a few bands out there who actually love how they're experimenting with extreme metal, and more importantly, that it serves some useful purpose. One such band is Sweden's Tribulation, who revel in making their brand of black/death metal so engaging and, dare I say it, catchy
that the fan-base won't be so limited. With 2013's The Formulas of Death
, Tribulation brought a real fresh twist and with that a greater sense of musical ambition, an aspect of a band's career which nowadays doesn't always seem the most important thing to consider. Still, the band are back in 2015 with The Children of the Night
, and if anything, the latest album is indeed an indication of what sweet music Tribulation makes.
The Children of the Night
is a real rocker, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of aiming for mainstream success and potentially hampering the overall impression or intention the band originally had, Tribulation have here made their fusion of many styles, namely classic rock, all the more seamless and unforgettably unique. In its 57-minute total running time, The Children of the Night
confidently and consistently hammers out excellent, head-nodding material, whilst the harsh vocals, Gothic atmospherics and heavy guitar pomp all bring an otherworldly sense of evil to the forefront. Opener "Strange Gateways Beckon" is introduced via a distinctive creepy atmosphere before the rhythm section lays down heavy riffs and a thunderous underlying drum rhythm, which reeks of both power and melancholic emotions. Whereas this song never truly explodes into more familiar black metal territory however, it is made up for by a level of musicianship which is just as effective, if not more. The accessibility of the main riff work here, not to mention the more restrained nature of solos within the mid-section, all manage to remain consistent and never fail in their obvious intention to please. Even the short three-minute instrumental piece "Cauda Pavonis", which is performed solely via the use of keyboards and Gothic atmosphere, revels in adventurous musical performance.
Indeed, the extreme metal influences are unimportant here. Whilst the harsher vocal delivery does tend to drag at some points due to a distinctive lack of versatility, that particular aspect is not what Tribulation were seeking to refine on The Children of the Night
. Instead, there seems to be a greater emphasis on how well each song progresses, regardless of whether each interpreted musical style works or not. The structure of longer, slower-burning songs like the impressive "In the Dreams of the Dead" and its slightly more epic counterpart "Winds" are written in a way so that listeners won't get tired. Changes in pace and mood are done seamlessly and this is in part thanks to the band's knowledge of when to explode and when to move towards a more relaxing sound. It's because of this positive boost in songwriting that the majority of The Children of the Night
succeeds very well. And with that comes an energetic albeit concentrated instrumental performance, which, notwithstanding the lack of Avant-garde moments in each song, helps Tribulation to make their style stand out.
The lyrical ideas of The Children of the Night
often seem to explore Gothic territory more than anything else. More importantly however, the lyrics are catchy and even hummable at times, though we're not talking anything poetic here. Take the first few lines of "Melancholia" for example, which doesn't rhyme as well as you'd expect, but wouldn't sound out of place on a traditional NWOBHM anthem:
I'll venture far, I'll reach down to my soul tonight
Through the soil, a journey through dark and light
Black bile, flames flicker like lightning
Without the music, expectations will guide the listener to a sound more simplistic and straightforward than Tribulation offers on their latest album. There are distinctive touches of early Fields of the Nephilim in the song "The Motherhood of God", as vocalist Johannes Anderson, following a set of dark-tinged guitar chords, grimly hurls the first two lines:
Blessed be the hands whose touch is fire
Blessed be a death that takes you higher
Following which comes the title of the track itself, but in a catchier flicker of Anderson's tongue, and sustaining that is an instrumental engagement which provides the icing on a melancholic cake. Indeed, the rhythm section continually works well alongside harsh vocal delivery and Gothic atmosphere to really deliver on all sides of Tribulation's musical work.
What Tribulation have produced here is both a reminder (to existing fans) of what makes their musical style truly unique and an invitation to a potentially greater fan-base. It won't just attract fans of extreme metal-Tribulation's third album will attract more, and with close listens different listeners will be able to identify different styles, whilst at the same time enjoying what's on offer. Furthermore, reading along to the lyrics will eventually get you to sing along, or growl if you prefer. That said, The Children of the Night
is undoubtedly one of 2015's finer releases under the extreme metal barrier, but just don't limit it to that musical barrier before you've had a listen.