If ever a band deserved a residency at the Carpathian Mountains Apollo (please note this may or may not be an actual venue), these guys would be the ones. Swedish goth metallers Tribulation return with their follow up to 2019’s Down Below, a creeping composition that could provide an adequate soundtrack to the original horror film masterpiece Nosferatu. Here they return with an album that is true to its predecessor but with an even bolder sound that sits within the shadows of our deepest and darkest fears.
Metal and horror have always had an unspoken kinship: whether it’s the haunting riffs of Black Sabbath, the stage theatrics of Alice Cooper, the intensity of Slipknot, the macabre melodies of Ghost, or the general genre of ‘Black Metal’. The relationship between the two has been inextricably linked throughout the history of rock music. Tribulation quickly embraced the dark side with their Hammer horror lyrical content and imaginative use of musical arrangement, with malevolent staccato keyboard stabs over deep melodic guitars. Elements of bands like Type O Negative, Fields of the Nephilim, and Ghost run through Tribulation’s songs but the sound is undeniably theirs. Indeed the guitarist Jonathan Hultens’ folk album Chants From Another Place (2020) would not have sounded out of place on the soundtrack to Midsommer, both well worth a listen and a watch.
The glorious gloom begins with ‘In Remembrance’, a subtle macabre intro like the dawning sun in a film where the rays pierce through a swirling misty forest. The bigger production comes crashing in with a thunderous roar of guitars and the growling vocals of Johannes Anderson. As the camera pans over a Transylvanian skyline, the opening of ‘Hour of the Wolf’ leads us into a rip-roaring stomp of a tune, ending with a rasping stereo clap of distant thunder-like effect, the Lycans disappearing into that swirling mist.
The tempo doesn’t let up on ‘Leviathans’. Heavy yet melodic in its delivery, a tolling bell takes us into a brief spoken-word break, slowing us into a false sense of serenity before the triumphant guitars and assured vocals snap us out of the calm. The gothic sprawl continues with ‘Dirge of a Dying Soul’ where the pace lessens slightly, but the ominous backdrop remains.
Being one of the five rivers in Hades, the mythological Greek Underworld, ‘Lethe’ (pronounced Lee-thee) was also the name of a Greek spirit who resided over forgetfulness and oblivion, two obvious skills for a budding spirit. This delightful piano interlude is like the calm at the beginning of a horror movie, a laughing group of teenagers loading up for a weekend road trip, what could possibly go wrong? Laughter later turns into screams, as the piano fades and ‘Daughters of Djinns’ mighty riffs kick in getting us back on track, or off the beaten track, being pursued by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. There is some great guitar work here, bombastic and confident, a band with a sense of purpose.
The mist of the castle backdrop and the howling of the wolves are never far away as ‘Elements’ soars into a crescendo of guitars and thunder along at pace. We are once again treated with a visit to Greek mythology as ‘Inanna’ tells the tale of the Sumerian goddess of love, sensuality, fertility, procreation, and war (Inanna had her work cut out for her!). An ode to this mythical siren, the song undulates and writhes, telling the story of how once again this goddess will rise.
Released as a single, ‘Funeral Pyre’ is a cracking tune with its Iron Maiden-like riffs and stellar guitar solos before a melancholic interval where the song gallops expertly as the album draws to its final scene. ‘The Wildness’ maintains the high standards that run through the compositions of this long-player. Staccato guitars pepper over a sprawling malevolent soundscape, where the race to beat the setting sun will be won or lost. On this listening, it’s clear they are victorious.
There is a clear sense of a band upping its game. A larger, deeper sound permeates the heavy gothic palette to create one of the strongest releases of the year so far. As the horror reality show of 2021 continues for us all, it’s comforting that Tribulation can take us on their own journey of mythical musings, a brief respite from the real world, as they drag us triumphantly into their glorious underworld.
Available January 29th via Century Media, more information here.
Review – Dave ‘Blizzard’ Shaw
Band pics – Ester Segarra