Sweden’s Tribulation have had a colourful career in their seventeen years as a band. Offering up The Horror and The Formulas Of Death in 2009 and 2013 respectively, they were hailed as the new kings of Swedish death metal with their buzzsaw guitars and tomblike atmosphere. In their soon-to-be characteristic adventurous manner, The Children Of The Night, released a mere two years after Formulas, was almost a 360° turn in direction that saw them fusing straight-up goth rock with classic heavy metal and a penchant for the dramatic. Unlike the majority of their peers, the change was welcomed by their fanbase without the usual cries of ‘sellout!’ – not only was the music huge and timeless, but their live shows were brimming with energy and Hammer Horror finery, and suddenly Tribulation were the new “band to watch”.
Where The Gloom Becomes Sound took two years to write and a mere three months to record (deep in the heart of pandemic time, no less) and no, there are no stylistic hairpin turns or new and unusual influences creeping in – in fact, this is Tribulation as we’ve come to know them over the past six years, simply with more confidence. Once again, the music is where the meat is and, without offending anyone’s selfish need for them to be a metal chameleon, this is what Tribulation sound like, this is the artistic palette that they work within, and this is what they want to do. Whether that brings social media backlash or no, they clearly follow Metallica in the ‘yup, we’re gonna do whatever we want whether you like it or not’ frame of mind, and damn if it isn’t commendable.
Founding member, guitarist, live focal point, and primary songwriter Jonathan Hultén wrote the majority of the music on this new album, and his tell-tale quality fingerprints are all over the place. After the album was in the can and the build-up had begun, however, the vital member made his resignation from the band public in December of 2020 and eyebrows were raised left and right. It was an amicable split, thankfully, and the spirit of the band is to grow wherever the call is heard, so his need to move on and stretch his artistic legs was supported, but it remains to be seen if they will be as strong with future outings (now with the absolutely capable strings of Joseph Tholl of Enforcer, Black Trip, and VOJD fame on board). But that’s for another time, so let’s focus on the now – is Where The Gloom Becomes Sound a Tribulation album for the ages or a comfortable walk down Safe Street?
From the artwork to the occult-drenched lyrics, it’s a clear banger on all levels. Songs such as lead singles ‘Funeral Pyre’ and ‘Leviathans’ to chewy entries like ‘In Remembrance’ and ‘Hour Of The Wolf’ are prime Tribulation with all the creepy atmosphere and riffy headbangery firmly intact, the work of a band that know their strengths and weaknesses and aim stubbornly for the former. They take their time building certain passages to allow choruses to shine and the riffs are bold enough to be unique and somehow still familiar (without aping any specific influences). The meticulous nature of Hultén’s writing is astounding, creating caverns of darkened evil that we often get to explore, with other avenues left off limits to allow for much-needed mystery and dread. The leads and solos by both guitarists are devoid of flash and wankery and derive their strength through carefully-chosen melodies and haunting swells of tight, emotion-driven ebbs and flows, the bass rumbles with demonic glee, and the growling throat of Johannes Andersson (as always) reminds us that this is a band that found their roots in the deathly underground. They perform as a single-minded entity with astounding ease and a need to get their tales across with the best possible musical accompaniment, and they succeed without fail. This is heavy metal at its core, ripping finest.
So, the haters will most probably continue to hate, the lovers will continue to love, and there’s little doubt that Where The Gloom Becomes Sound (a title inspired by German darkwave artists Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble Of Shadow: “…down, further down, where the gloom becomes sound, on the cell where your love might be found…”) will attract new listeners and be a solid, if not exemplary addition to the Tribulation discography. Their allure lies in the way they express themselves with all their individual influences adding shade and colour, not with changing up their direction with every release, and their strength is at an all-time high with this new album. Prepare yourself for a damn good time that immerses you in its shady underworld, and give all praise to the Swedish kings of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Because it ain’t, dammit.
Where The Gloom Becomes Sound is out now via Century Media and can be ordered here.
Words: John Morrow