Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Written by: AP on 13/03/2021 19:00:40

It struck me the other day how similar the musical journey of Tribulation is to that of Sentenced, who reigned in Finland between 1989 and 2005, gradually evolving their sound away from their death metal origins and toward a more melodic, gothic style in the final part of their career. This has been the blueprint for Tribulation’s development, too, and were it not for bassist Johannes Andersson’s hoarse growls, it would be difficult to even believe it is the same band that created both 2009’s “The Horror” and this latest offering “Where the Gloom Becomes Sound”. So if you were hoping for the Swedish quartet to return to their more extreme roots after brushing against the mainstream on “Down Below” three years ago it might be advisable to stop reading here, for Tribulation have never sounded tamer — and not because gothic metal should be like that by definition, but because the album finds the four musicians quite literally taming their wildest impulses and blunting their cutting edge. The cynical take on it might be that after touring with Ghost in 2019, Tribulation had gotten lesson in how to get the Jane and John Does into heavier music and wanted to give it a whack themselves.

Indeed, it is difficult to believe that “Where the Gloom Becomes Sound” was not — at least in part — inspired by the self-proclaimed ‘Satanic pop’ act when one hears songs like the opener “In Remembrance” and the subsequent “Hour of the Wolf” for the first time. The free-wheeling leads of guitarist Jonathan Hultén and the death metal vocals of Andersson still keep them tethered to the style that fans of Tribulation have been accustomed to since the group’s 2013 album “The Formulas of Death”, but both structurally and in terms of riffs and rhythms, they closely resemble Ghost’s method of songwriting. Whether this is a winning formula or not comes down to personal taste, but in my book the two songs succeed in what they have been set out to achieve, which is to render them almost impossibly memorable. The former makes its mark with a chorus that is certain to make crowds break into a sing-along in spite of being growled, and an elegant instrumental passage near the end that segues into a blazing guitar solo, while the latter delivers an unforgettable, ringing guitar lead that permeates the entire song, shifting shape at every turn to create a kind of song within a song. And once the lead single “Leviathans” takes over with a simple, yet effective hook built from just three harmonic notes, that familiar pattern of Tribulation leaping from strength to strength starts to manifest itself once again — albeit not without dark clouds gathering on the horizon as well.

In those clouds is the realisation that variety is not going to be a defining characteristic of “Where the Gloom Becomes Sound”, and although the four musicians respond by slowing down the pace for the ecclesiastical “Dirge of a Dying Soul” and dropping in a piano interlude in “Lethe”, it feels like the power of the initial impact made by the first three songs wanes quicker than has been the case on previous Tribulation records. Nothing apart from the retrospective “Daughter of the Djinn”truly stands out during the rest of the album, which seems stuck in a pointless tristesse, devoid of the progressions and novel ideas that have made the Arvika-born outfit’s material such a thrill to listen to until now. The likes of “Elementals” and “Funeral Pyre” are not disastrous by any means, but it would surprise me if anyone found themselves humming their melodies or remembering the words growled by Andersson in them for very long after “The Wilderness” has finished things off like a goth’s take on Nick Cave’s classic “Where the Wild Roses Grow”. It honestly feels like the band is running out of steam here, which becomes all the more troubling when one remembers that Hultén actually exited Tribulation late last year, leaving them unable to draw on his unique skill on the six-string for lasting value henceforth.

His departure spells dire omens indeed, but at the very least “Where the Gloom Becomes Sound” avoids a gruesome fate and, despite being the least innovative and by extension least memorable of Tribulation’s albums thus far, delivers just enough oomph to be worth your while. One can only hope that the arrival of Enforcer’s Joseph Tholl to replace Hultén, the group will be forced to think of new ways to build upon the signature sound that has earned them so many fans and so much critical acclaim until now. I won’t sugarcoat it: by Tribulation’s usual standards, this one is a bit of a dud for me.


Download: In Remembrance, Hour of the Wolf, Leviathans, Daughter of the Djinn
For the fans of: Cloak, In Solitude, Sentenced, Slægt
Listen: Facebook

Release date 29.01.2021
Century Media

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