One of my biggest regrets when it comes to writing stuff for this site is not reviewing the utterly wonderful Down Below by Sweden’s Tribulation, even though it ended up in the number three spot on my list of favourite albums from 2018 and nabbed itself a Swedish Grammy. It was a logical next step from 2015’s Children of the Night, which saw the band from Arvika eskewing their death metal sound in favour of a more goth rock approach. But where its predecessor could have done with some trimming, Down Below nearly perfectly encapsulated the band’s ability to write snappy, catchy rock songs whilst still maintaining a sense of mystery and melancholy. Three years after its release, I still spin it regularly and it remains a terrific showcase in self-editing and pacing. The brand-spanking new Where the Gloom Becomes Sound continues to build on those elements without being a repetition of what we’ve heard before.
The first single Hour of the Wolf had me worried a little that Tribulation had taken the formula of Down Under and were going to ride it out on autopilot. After having the album more or less on repeat for the past few weeks, I’m relieved to find that it fares better than I initially thought. It’s still not the best song they’ve ever released, but it’s solid enough and works better in the context of the album as a whole than as a single track. It’s also testament to the flow of the album that it elevates single songs to a greater plain. Where the Gloom Becomes Sound is, perhaps even more than its predecessor, an incredibly easy record to get into. From the start of the wonderfully melancholic In Remembrance, the material packs a certain punch that keeps you alert throughout the remaining fifty minutes.
Also helping in keeping things fresh during those fifty minutes is the variety to the songs. On Where the Gloom Becomes Sound, Tribulation’s flirtations with prog and psychedelia is more present than on Down Below, crafting a sound that’s more haunting and mysterious than on the previous record. In that respect, it’s more reminiscent of Children of the Night, but with the added zest and immediacy of its follow-up. The speedy, heavy rockers (Daughter of the Djinn, Funeral Pyre) sit comfortably amongst their more gloomy counterparts, and it works wonders for the album’s flow. A melancholy piano instrumental like Lethe really stands out well between the creepy Dirge of a Dying Soul and the uptempo Daughter of the Djinn, creating a bridge between the two tracks. Likewise, the slow and brooding Inanna probably works better because it’s lodged between two headbangers.
There’s a spooky, gothic sensibility to Tribulation’s sound, but they never shy away from what one could almost call big stadium rock. Take the ending of The Wilderness for example, with its huge middle part full of jubilant guitar solos. It’s just one notch off from being mainstream rock, and reminds me of how a band like Ghost is still growing bigger and bigger by successfully building bridges between heavy metal and poppy, mainstream rock music. Tribulation has the tendency to do the same thing, but every time you think stuff is getting too catchy and too easy on the ears, Johannes Andersson’s dark, brooding growl will inevitably pull you back in and remind you that this is still a metal band in heart and soul. Then again, Where the Gloom Becomes Sound might be their most catchy accessible album yet, and it will be interesting where it takes the band next, especially with longtime guitarist and primary songwriter Jonathan Hultén leaving the band after finishing this album.
Until that time, Where the Gloom Becomes Sound will surely keep us invested. With great songwriting and teeming with atmosphere, Tribulation’s fifth album has been playing more or less non-stop here and still does not become tedious. It’s a triumph where one has to resort to nitpicking in order to find any real fault. Equal parts hard rock, goth metal and flavoured with the tiniest hint of death, these ten songs will be more than able to tide you over until the next album. I would have loved to see these guys work their vampiric goth magic on a live stage over the summer but things being as they are, I guess we can forget that for a while to come.
Label: Century Media, 2021
Buy it here: https://eu.kingsroadmerch.com/tribulation/
- In Remembrance (06:50)
- Hour of the Wolf (04:31)
- Leviathans (04:54)
- Dirge of a Dying Soul (05:08)
- Lethe (02:12)
- Daughter of the Djinn (05:34)
- Elementals (03:30)
- Inanna (04:37)
- Funeral Pyre (04:22)
- The Wilderness (06:39)
- Johannes Andersson – bass, vocals
- Jonathan Hultén – guitars
- Adam Zaars – guitars
- Oscar Leander – drums
Review by Ralph Plug