Many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many things have been said about Tribulation lately and almost all of them have nothing to do with the actual music that’s contained on their new album Down Below. One non-musical aspect that deserves attention would be the cover art from guitarist Jonathan Hultén who has long handled the cover art but has never done so with such a bold palette. But, for the majority of the review, we’re going to stick to the music.
While plenty changes about Tribulation from album to album the guitar sound remains consistently massive. Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hultén click in a way that very few guitar duos have the ability to. Akin to the holy ranks of Thin Lizzy, the two hammer out thick chord-riffs and delicately intertwine harmonizing lead lines across Down Below. The production, particularly sparkling on this record, not only compliments but enhances the sparkle of their abilities. The drums are subdued somewhat, less cavernous than on previous releases but perfectly tuned to the tight style of the band.
Label: Century Media.
“Purgatorio” represents the only interlude on the album, and joins the driftiness from some extended passages on “Cries From the Underworld.” Slow and mournful, these moments call to mind plenty of gothic imagery more commonly associated with Tribulation’s live show than with their albums. It’s something that’s completely necessary to understand the whole package of Tribulation. And, certainly not in a way that distracts from their musical talent, as has been the case with fans far more concerned about what they are wearing as if it’s the Red Carpet at the Oscars. These gems of moments show that Tribulation might have a future in putting maudlin soundtracks to Halloween-themed movies.
Which brings us to the vocal performance. Johannes Andersson seems intent on making the vocals the most consistent aspect of any Tribulation record. He continues to blow out his vocal cords using harsh, gurgling vocals dripping with blood as if he’d recently swallowed glass. Last year, The Chasm puts out a brilliant album that probably needed vocals and this year Tribulation is putting one out that likely doesn’t need vocals, or at least not these vocals. As the floodgates of musical progression seem ready to burst, there are the vocals to hammer the lock back into place. You can’t look at a track like “The World” and not be excited about what this band could be if they only opened up the vocal delivery to the same artistic freedom as they do the rest of the band.
Tribulation will forever be Metal’s Tim Burton. They will feature a wardrobe that would make Edward Scissorhands blush and Winona Ryder piss her pants in excitement. But, much like Tim Burton films, they will also feature a soundtrack (put together by Danny Elfman usually) that is superb, appropriate and worthy of standing on its own without the story line with which it was paired. No matter what the metal mainstream focuses on, underpinning those gender, sexuality and fashion debates resides an album thoroughly worth your time even if it had been made by your typical overweight hesher.