Review Summary: Trudging onto darker pathways.
Sporadically, artists will venture into different territories of music, including varying tones and moods. Whether this is delving into the realms of optimism, joy or melancholia, the subsequent result is an often vast characteristic change many are not yet accustomed to. On 'Down Below', Tribulation have drifted into a more gloomy domain, whilst maintaining their established character.
'The Lament' serves as album opener, and is oozing with the gothic tendencies of the band's foregoing endeavours. Ranging from rather classical guitar segments to the more sombre piano instalments, this song confirms these characteristics are set to stay, and do so throughout the record's entirety. From this, comes an album rife with piano and occasionally synth overlays to the aggressive instrumentation, complementing the more glossy production value well.
On the subject of instrumental aspects, the band seem to be in superlative form here, sporting impressive degrees of quality throughout the 45 minute runtime. Surprisingly complex song structures are present here, much like that found on the closer 'Here Be Dragons', which boasts exceptional guitar work, and serves as a fitting conclusion. The drums make their presence inescapable with their frequently intense pounding, and serve as a solid backbone to the record, along with the bass, which has possibly the strongest performance here. It is rarely heard hiding behind the imposing guitar work, being utilising to an almost optimal extent, occasionally soaring into petite, albeit enjoyable bass solos.
The vocals found within this record are not too varied, and whilst they are not poor death growls by any means, they do not add much variation. Yet, when coupled with the morbid atmosphere and starkly unpleasant lyrical themes, they perform as an amplifier to the gloominess already present. When considering this, it becomes clear how meticulous Tribulation are in their craft, fabricating incredibly cohesive music that carries many enjoyable elements.
Ultimately, 'Down Below' is a record with much of the fat from previous efforts trimmed off, and the core constituents ameliorated to present a truly outstanding listen. The theatrical nature of tracks like 'The World' and intense instrumentals amalgamate marvellously well, displaying how this album serves a calibre of Gothic Metal much higher than most others. The sheer grandiosity of this record makes it one not to be missed by any fan of Gothic Metal, and serves as a testimony to how Tribulation are a band at their peak.