Review Summary: The sword in the darkness
Few bands in the underground scene of metal dare to alter their chosen style. Consequently, these bands anchor themselves down to the genre they have selected as what they are best at and never ascend to the level of popularity that their potential once displayed. So, for a band to consistently release great music where they stick to one given style, only to start experimenting with different genres and come out even stronger than they originally were is a thrilling thing to witness. Tribulation is such a band; in under the decade, they have departed their original death metal origins in search for something greater, ultimately arriving at 2015’s “The Children of the Night”
whereupon the band signalled they were heading down more gothic roads than the deathly causeways of “The Horror”
and “The Formulas of Death”
The fantastic gothic aura that Tribulation’s new album, “Down Below”
, exhibits is tangible. Lead by gliding guitars that provide a smoky canvas behind Johannes Andersson’s morbid growls, Tribulation navigates their audience through ghostly labyrinthine alleyways of a moonlit Victorian town during “The Lament”. “Subterranea” also has that stalking sense of feeling unsafe for no particular reason as the repetitious riffing establishes a panicky state of mind until they release their nightmarish guitar leads in full force. One of the most cinematic songs on “Down Below”
is “The World” which largely centralises Andersson’s bleak growls underneath starry melodies. However, it’s the anthemic choir and enchanted tinkering on xylophone and downbeat drums that enhance the majestic nature this track holds.
However, in the attempt of enhancing their illustrative atmosphere as much as possible, parts of “Down Below”
sound as if Tribulation has layered the songs to the point of the music sounding compact. Within these brief episodes, there are many elements to pick out and focus on specifically, each provoking a different sensation. “Lady Death” and “Cries from the Underworld” displays multiple layers of curious guitar leads, mystic keyboards and upbeat drums-the latter also featuring a ceaseless patter of the same note on keyboards. Yet, concentrating on the whole rather than the sum of its parts, the sinister expression Tribulation portrays overall in these songs loses the grim mysticism the band has become potent in casting, flattened under the weight of every feature they include.
Nevertheless, there is something about the guitar tone Tribulation chooses that makes their music sound so brilliantly gothic. Every note evokes a heavy, hazy, grey mystique that compliments the supernatural mythology and occult themes that the band centralises their lyrics around. Perhaps ‘ritualistic’ defines the way the hooks, riffs and melodies across “Down Below”
sound as if they are mimicking the dancing movements of flickering flames, particularly during the regal “Lacrimosa”. Furthermore, this song aptly calls back to Tribulation’s origins as a blackened death metal band, where fierce riffs lash out with enough elasticity behind their malice to sound genuinely catchy.
By sacrificing the furious rhythms of their origins, Tribulation permits themselves to build on the imposing atmospheres and gothic tangibility more so than ever. Closing the album is “Here Be Dragons”, a majestic dirge that sounds like a beast awakening from a long slumber due to its climbing melodies and unhurried climax. Here, Tribulation successfully tiers their music, exposing each mystical feature- bell chimes, synth, xylophone- subsequently, rather than throwing every element into the cauldron at the same time. Surely, “Here be Dragons” was named intentionally and placed to close the album to underline how “Down Below”
is a statement of intent as to what direction the band is now charted: dangerous and unexplored territories.