Closing one door and opening another
Sweden’s Tribulation have long been champions of blatantly heavy music, first starting off as a seemingly drab 2000s black/death metal band. Through the course of their career, however, Tribulation slowly started flirting more and more with the fringes of gothic metal and darker imagery, even somehow being almost flamboyant at times, considering their corpse paint hadn’t been washed off yet. Following up on their fourth and previous release Down Below (2018), as well as three teaser single releases, Where the Gloom Becomes Sound (2021), the band’s debut on Metal Blade, has fully embraced a genre transformation.
Following more in the footsteps of contemporaries such as Wytch Hazel and In Solitude rather than the predominantly death-metal approach of their earlier work, Tribulation have begun to pace themselves differently, and, to an extent, much better in terms of lyricism, tempos, songwriting and above all, the actual structure of the album.
A solid opener, “In Remembrance” kicks off the release, featuring first and foremost some dense, ghoulish, chilling atmospheres, which remain a major thematic centerpiece for the album, even on something as different as the following track “Hour of the Wolf,” toning down the energy and dynamics in favor of a more conventional, folk approach.
This dynamic becomes somewhat familiar, and for some, might overstay its welcome, but the record’s lead single “Leviathans” features some bone-chilling spoken-word vocals from Johannes Andersson and bombastic instrumental performances before again being contrasted by the starkly-lit, moody “Dirge of a Dying Soul” and transitional track “Lethe,” which could actually fit quite well on an ominous, dramatic soundtrack.
Unfortunately, the second half of the album, which is obviously meant to be the focal, complementary answer to the buildup of the previous five tracks, does little to prove its staying power. Some of the material found on tracks such as “Daughter of the Djinn” and “The Wilderness” seems somewhat promising, showing off the diversity in drumming chops and lead guitar playing, but it really does nothing to fit or define the general aestheticism of the rest of the record. The track “Inanna” just seems somewhat out of place, if not, completely unnecessary to the flow of the album even.
However, cutting through the sort of misty, ambitious and kind of generally uninspired nature of the album are tracks like “Elementals” and the latest single, “Funeral Pyre,” which might prove that band hasn’t completely foregone their heavy-as-hell upbringing.
Obviously, Tribulation are not the sole pioneers of metal bands transitioning into a new, contemporary age of experimentation and, honestly, really solid production and audio engineering work, but they have found their own niche to call home. A cold, snowy, gothic, ’80s reverb pedal fetish of a home. The biggest qualm would not have to be with the execution, since Tribulation obviously have the capabilities to write and flesh out solid song parts and a decent atmosphere to envelop it, even in the face of having their guitar player/main songwriter leave. Rather, there is just a general sense on Where the Gloom Becomes Sound that Tribulation build up some anticipation that goes unanswered, both in song dynamics and its overall re-listenability as a finished product.