Tribulation are a worth considering case from Sweden. Their evolution from a descent death/thrash metal band into a more adventurous death act, following Dissection’s (and hence Watain’s) steps, attracted many curious fans. However, the gothic/heavy metal influences of “The Children of the Night” showed their mastery in experimenting with atmospheres and melodicism, without losing their death/black background. Actually, that was the album that enabled them to remain in many metalheads’ consciousness until now. Three years later, “Down Below” relied upon the principles of its cornerstone predecessor, expanding its ideas and proving that Tribulation weren’t just a temporary emergence.

Despite the major turns of Tribulation’s journey so far, I didn’t expect that their new effort, “Where the Gloom Becomes Sound”, would be another change in their course. The gothic/silk/atmospheric orientation of the previous records suits ideally the band’s essence. They have proved their competence in weaving a darkness not so violent or brutal as in the early days, balancing between death, progressive, gothic and even rock elements. Hence, why should they change a provably successful recipe?

First of all, “Where the Gloom Becomes Sound” certainly rings a bell concerning the future of the band, since it was the last work with Jonathan Hulten, one of the founding members and main songwriting force. Jonathan left the band shortly after the completion of the album, while his substitute, guitarist Jonathan Tholl (and a band’s friend), contributed partially to the composing process as well. That change may render the new album a last stone to a successful era before something new arises; but this remains to be seen.

Concerning the album itself, its orientation doesn’t differ substantially. Tribulation weave a melancholic, gloomy atmosphere, using their familiar progressive approach with an explicitly gothic direction. The path is predestined and they don’t deviate. However, I spot a difference in the way of execution: even from the very first hearing, it’s evident that Tribulation have placed emphasis on leads and solos, intensifying further the melodic aspect. Of course, this is definitely a plus, since they always knew how to compose melodies. But this time, they surpassed themselves, offering the most majestic, sentimental patterns so far. Tribulation now become more melancholically imposing and grandiose, retaining Cure’s silky touch.

Pay attention on the structure of the opening track, “In Remembrance”, and the way guitar parts are used, in conjunction with Andersson’s harsh voice. Leads come in the foreground in “Hour of the Wolf”, a song so direct and simple that could be regarded as the hit of the album. On the other hand, melodies negate the initially doom approach in “Inanna”, giving a different, more mystical, or unearthly essence. Above all, Tribulation offer variety: in the doomy “Dirge of a Dying Soul” they decelerate their usually mid-tempo rhythms, using almost ritualistic drumming and interspersing the main theme with sensitive, esoteric leads.

There are moments when the band reveal their heavy metal side abruptly, making the darkness less unbearable. We hear heavy, rhythmic outbursts in “Daughter of the Jinn” and “Funeral Pyre”, albeit they retain a more progressive character in the second part of the latter. However, the mesmerizing piano instrumental “Lethe”, stirring emotions of affection and sorrow for something forgotten or left to the past, shouldn’t precede “Daughter of the Jinn”. That’s a transition between two totally different tracks in the middle of the album that simply doesn’t work.

Tribulation reserved their most noticeable composition for the end: “The Wilderness” is as experimental as the band allow themselves to be. Variety in themes (some of them approaching the borders of epic) and numerous interchanges between rhythmic, sharp riffs, melodies that remain in the subconscious and progish parts constitute a totality that encompasses “old” and “modern” alike, maybe implicative of what they wish to become after Tholl’s involvement.

Probably, “Where the Gloom Becomes Sound” stands at a crossroad. For the time being, let’s concentrate in the present. Tribulation wrote an album that doesn’t reveal its virtuous directly: patience is needed from our part. Their darkness may be familiar, but now it emerges under a somehow different point of view. The band’s most guitar-oriented album supersedes successfully and respectfully its predecessors, inviting us in romanticism and gloom. Let’s study their intricate character through their splendidly emerging dark beauty, until they let us know about their next step.

♦ 8,5/10

Alex Nikolaidis