Like many long time listeners of Tribulation, Sweden’s blackened goth rockers, it was the band’s second album, The Formulas Of Death, that really caught my attention. The Horror, their debut, was an explosive Blackened Death album I still love, but Formulas set them on a path for a new horizon, by focusing on what makes them different from their peers. Ultimately, it’s what lead us to the ground breaking, Children Of The Night, which was easily the most exciting album of 2015, at least to me.
So that brings us to Down Below, Tribulation’s upcoming opus. With the critical acclaim to 2015's Children Of The Night, it’s understandable there is ton of pressure to create something as great once again. After all, it was an album that defined them, and gave them a personality the metal world not only respects, but is now copying in other bands, and wants to hear more of. So how did they do with their latest efforts?
Truthfully, Down Below is nothing short of a bold masterpiece in an already incredible discography. It brings back the Tribulation trademark of eerie melodies and catchy hooks that paint vivid pictures of Vlad Tepes’ castle and Elizabeth Bathory’s bathtub, but makes even stronger efforts on the essence of dynamic song writing. If you already love the band, wait until you see what they can do with some time under their wings. As with previous records, they experiment with a new logo, new ideas, and new sounds that really build on their craft each time. It’s an album that already has me excited to hear what the band does next, and this one’s not even out yet!
The album opens with "The Lament", the first single released for the record, and you can already tell from the start, you’re dealing with a band that matured their game on every level. It bills the album nicely as an opener, because it contains everything you can find on Down Below in a single track – gentle beauty juxtaposed with morbid fascination. Something worth noting is that the production is meticulously clean for this type of record, making every note and even closed hi-hat hit audible without losing any of the grimness and flavor of the music itself.
Once again, Andersson's vocals are filled with the perfect amount of grit to front the band’s heavy tones, while remaining distinguishable enough to understand without a lyric sheet. Something many attempt, but don't compare to. There are more calculated guitar harmonies and arena sized hooks than ever before, which can be found on tracks like "Nightbound", "Lady Death", and "Cries From The Underworld" featuring the axe wielding of Zaars and Hulten. Not to be outshined by the unequivocally smooth sailing grooves of new drummer, Oscar Leander.
There's many reasons I'm in love with Down Below, but my personal favorite thing about this album is their way of building on darkly ambient and moody tracks fit for a funeral dirge, like "Subterranea", "Lacrimosa", and "Here Be Dragons". Their heavy use of extra instrumentation you can hear all over the album sets them on a class of their own. Ranging in piano, chimes, violin, xylophone, choir voices, and much more, I personally love how it further shapes the band's growing sound. It really gives you the sense that Tribulation are no longer just metal musicians writing a record, but actual composers working on a score for an eerie story in the making.
The only complaint I may have with the album, is that Down Below acts better as one cohesive piece that was never meant to be taken apart for play listing, but rather be consumed by candle light in a still room with a full listen. If that's the worst Tribulation can do, I'm happy knowing the future of music is in the hands of these four gentlemen.
It’s truly amazing to see how far this band has come over the years, sonically, visually, and musically. If Children Of The Night was the awakening for Tribulation, Down Below is the album that will see the band take over the world, one victim at a time.