REVIEW: TRIBULATION – “Where The Gloom Becomes Sound”
“In Remembrance” kicks-off Tribulation’s new record at the beginning of the end. A requiem for the living, the narrator remembers being “led by the devil, a possession in blood, a dance in the absence of God.” The soundtrack to all your favorite Anne Rice novels, the protagonist bids adieu to the sunlight in a pained death rasp over a steady stomp that slowly increases in intensity. Accentuated by subtle synths and melodic guitar figures, the song crescendos into a bridge that builds muffled arpeggios into a ghoulishly efficient and memorable lead break.
The compact, folk-inflected “Hour of the Wolf” follows. Its driving rhythm and synth textures reveal a more thoughtful and nuanced approach to songwriting. It is hard to not hear shades of guitarist Jonathan Hulten’s acoustic solo work in this tune. Hulten’s abrupt departure from the band following the announcement of the new record, begs the question of what a Hulten-less Tribulation will sound like. It is hard to picture Tribulation live without the striking image of the flamboyant, ultra-lean Hulten in his elf slippers perched unsteadily atop a speaker stage left. Unfortunately, we probably won’t know until a new record drops in a couple of years. COVID willing though, we will be able to experience the excellent Tribulation live show in late 2021 and 2022 with newcomer Joseph Tholl teaming up with founding guitarist Adam Zaars to fill Hulten’s shoes.
Upon initial listen “Leviathans,” the first taste of music from ‘Where the Gloom Becomes Sound,’ while good, was not the standout track that I had hoped it would be. Fortunately, repeat spins in the context of the full breadth of the well-produced record reveal an intricate tune that is an indispensable piece of the whole. Earworm minor-key guitar licks, a crucial element of the core Tribulation sound, accent syncopated riffs before the bell tolls on the dreamlike haze of a low-key bridge offset by a demonic de-tuned narrative.
The effective and vaguely familiar nocturne-esque intro to “Dirge of a Dying Soul” is love at first bite. The gentle swing of the intro eventually crumbles into fragile guitar chords before a lumbering doom figure drags the song into the sunlight. Plaintive guitar melodies and ominous arpeggios answer Johannes Andersson’s (vocals, bass) sinful lament on a record highlight that establishes Tribulation as the new Kings of the Night Time World.
The brittle and foreboding ‘Lethe,’ a song about the mythical river in Hades whose water causes the drinker to forget the past, is the sound of bony fingers on wig-powder dusted ivory keys. The devil is in the details, as the floor creaks under the strain of each application of the piano’s expression pedal threatening collapse at any moment.
‘Lethe’ sets up the bombastic ‘Daughter of the Djinn,’ the first of a pair of mid-record bangers guaranteed to wake the dead. The song bolsters the upbeat swagger from rhythm section Anderson and drummer Oscar Leander with angular guitar melodies and murky, progressive flights of fancy.
With an increased focus on atmosphere, the excellent ’Elementals’ follows in ‘Daughter of the Djinn’s’ footsteps. Andersson’s ghostly whisper weaves tales of spirits and eternal night over some of the record’s heaviest riffage. Grinding rhythms propel it forward into the big rock guitars of a bombastic bridge that injects some warm blood into the song’s deliciously icy veins.
Elsewhere, “Funeral Pyre” is driven by a crushing thrash riff and some of the shreddiest leads of the band’s career. The bloodletting eases up briefly for a magnificently melancholic bridge before the aggressive thrash returns to drive a stake into the heart of the tune.
Tribulation follows up 2018’s standout ‘Down Below,’ with the darkly atmospheric and remarkably consistent ‘Where the Gloom Becomes Sound.’ Flawlessly executed, the record finds the band dialing back the heavier, more progressive elements of their previous outing in favor of a unifying gothic “horror-scape” ambience, bolstered by razor-sharp, focused songcraft.