Written by: Beaston Lane
The term “gothic metal” has been loosely applied to uniquely dramatic and dark bands over the past few decades, but its existence as a genre has always remained unclear. In 2021, however, there’s one band that immediately comes to mind when gothic metal is mentioned: Tribulation.
Drawing from anthemic, melodic hard rock as well as melodeath, black metal, and doom, the band has charted an intoxicating course during the 2010's, seemingly improving with each release. The questions that have surrounded Where the Gloom Becomes Sound since its announcement weren’t regarding its quality, rather whether or not it would meet the astronomical bar set by its beloved predecessors. Hot streaks are bound to end, but as WTGBS proves, Tribulation’s is far from over.
Tribulation’s two previous critically-acclaimed albums, The Children of the Night (2015) and Down Below (2018), introduced themselves with “Strange Gateways Beckon” and “The Lament,” two of the band’s best songs to date. “In Remembrance,” WTGBS’s epic opener, gives those tracks a run for their money. Building a chills-inducing, deceptively tranquil atmosphere with subdued synths and muted guitar melodies, the track explodes into electric fury at the perfect moment. With soaring leads superimposed on chugging chords, Tribulation is once again at their most dramatic, as Johannes Andersson’s guttural rasp begins telling a story of horror. The drama culminates in a triumphant two-part chorus, with arena rock power chords and retro leads combining to make this remembrance an indelible earworm. The track’s fusion of doom, rock, and melodeath sets the tone for the rest of the record, and its glorious two-minute outro generates enough momentum to sustain the entire album.
“Hour of the Wolf'” opts for simplicity after the gothic grandeur of “In Remembrance,” utilizing a lead-driven main riff on what is arguably the catchiest song on WTGBS. If you’re already a Tribulation fan, this song may seem underwhelming at first, but I assure you--you’ll be hooked after a few listens. It’s a savvy choice for the second track on a ten song LP, serving as a comfortable palette cleanser that prepares the listener for its ambitious follow-up, “Leviathans.” Thalassophiles will get extra enjoyment from this lead single, whose first half evokes the obscure feeling of rowing a boat into dark and turbulent waters. This track is weird, even for Tribulation, but its ferocious second half makes it a surefire hit. Jonathan Hultén (I’ll miss you) and Adam Zaars lay down some of the most memorable leads of their career over a scintillating chorus that feels like purifying light, ensuring that “Leviathans” is as monstrous as its subject matter.
Concluding the first act of WTGBS is “Dirge of a Dying Soul,” one of the Tribulation’s doomiest tracks ever. Its slow pace allows room for an eerie atmosphere to blossom, and this atmosphere is complemented by Andersson’s first-person narration of crossing from life into the realms of death. It seems as though actual coldness seeps from this track, baptizing you in the waters of an unfathomable darkness. The descent continues into the two-minute piano interlude, “Lethe,” which doubles down on the dreariness and melancholy of “Dirge of a Dying Soul.” The calmness of this interlude is soothing, but somewhat of a red herring.
As the final notes of “Lethe” fade, the tempo slows to a lurch. Suddenly, “Daughter of the Djinn” erupts as though a pent-up storm of rage, providing the most shocking and reinvigorating moment on WTGBS. Blazing forward with guitar solo extremity that hasn’t been heard since The Formulas of Death (2013), this track fits with “In Remembrance” as one of the best tracks of Tribulation’s career. Its lyrical concept is also quite interesting: Tribulation uses the phrase “daughter of the djinn” to evoke contradictory interpretations--that the track is either about genies or Aleister Crowley’s hashish philosophy--when it’s actually about the nuance of modern reality. To my knowledge, most of Tribulation’s lyrics aren’t primarily grounded in the real world, so it’s nice hear these savants using their mystical knowledge to provide sneaky commentary.
The next two tracks, “Elementals” and “Inanna,” lose a bit of the excitement generated by the previous song, but still manage to hold your attention with the band’s penchant for theatrical storytelling. “Elementals” is an up-tempo banger that evokes “Nightbound” in some moments and Slayer solos in others; it isn’t that special, but it’s a song that isn’t skippable either. “Inanna” is similar in that respect, but features a slower flow than “Dirge of a Dying Soul,” feeling like a folk-tale told over an ominous metal instrumental. There’s even some synths thrown in, making “Inanna” a peculiar track that leaves an impact over time.
“Funeral Pyre” wastes no time picking up the tempo after “Inanna” triumphantly concludes, giving WTGBS just the final kick it needed for the home stretch. Incorporating elements of thrash and progressive metal, this song does everything a Tribulation song should. The instrumental and vocal hooks are extremely strong here, and the unpredictable change-ups are well-timed. Oscar Leander, who I haven’t mentioned nearly enough, helms the ambient break with a warped double-kick beat, setting up this track’s deliciously evil outro.
If the sacrificial stupor of the previous track wasn’t your speed, album closer “The Wilderness” details a protagonist not unlike Henry David Thoreau communing with mythical deities in the woods. This grand finale is the definition of epic, truly evoking the sensations of trekking through a forest alone, discovering what secrets the trees and rocks hold. Hultén and Zaars’s lead work carries this track to cathartic highs, while Andersson’s endearing growls establish a mood of exploration--a readiness to go beyond. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether “The Wilderness” foreshadows the band going a new direction in the future, but it’s a solid closer nonetheless.
Where the Gloom Becomes Sound is suspenseful, surprising, and utterly eerie. It continues to refine the melodic approach realized on The Children of the Night, pushing Tribulation’s sound into exciting places while also showing off a mastery of mid-tempo metal. Whether or not it’s better than its predecessors depends on the day at this early stage, but it’s certain that WTGBS is another successful endeavor for the band, who’ve seen their popularity dramatically increase with each release. Consistently gaining visibility as the faces of 2021 metal on Apple Music, Tribulation has me excited for the genre’s future. With the melodic strength of Ghost and the darkness of Immortal, Tribulation has the potential to reach the highest echelon of modern metal if they keep this up. Without Hultén, the band’s next move becomes less predictable, but as they’ve proven with every release, they age like fine wine.
Tribulation - Where the Gloom Becomes Sound was released Jan. 29th, 2021 from Century Media
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!