Tribulation – Down Below (2018) REVIEW

As quickly as a new wave of prog-rock influenced Swedish death metal bands rose to creative heights, they fell into other interests. Having followed this band initially because of Repugnant‘s indefinite hiatus, Tribulation‘s ‘The Horror’ and Stench‘s ‘In Putrescence’ were recommended in their place with both albums prominently featuring the death metal riffs and brilliant artwork of Jonathan Hultén.  All signs pointed towards a renaissance in creative takes on death metal as ‘The Formulas of Death’ subverted expectations with a ground-breaking progressive rock-wagging death album. Well, then Stench released the absolutely brilliant ‘Venture’, an album that has to be seen and touched as much as it needs to be heard. Hultén’s vision on ‘Venture’ so impressed me that I didn’t know what to make of their vampire-corpse make up and Gothic metal style on their Century Media debut ‘The Children of the Night’.

Of all of the weirdly pandering aesthetics to choose from they’d chosen to go for a mix of The Cure and glam Celtic Frost and it astounds me to this day. In fact The Cure cover that they tacked onto the digipack for ‘The Children of the Night’ emphasized that what they’d stumbled upon was 70’s and 80’s rock done up with a black/death metal vocalist was just campy and original sounding to the extreme metal crowd, largely uninitiated with Gothic metal experimentation. For my taste the 2015 album still clung to the instrumentation of ‘The Formulas of Death’ along similar lines and felt like Tribulation. Well, remember when Sentenced put out ‘Amok’ and the growling quickly gave way to Stone Temple Pilot riffs? *ding ding ding* This is Tribulation’s full rawk moment and it isn’t half bad. It is also half bad.

What I can say about ‘Down Below’ is that it is a pleasant, well made Gothic metal record with harsh vocals. The biggest change is probably a result of the inclusion of Deathstars‘ drummer as his style is considerably simpler and the performance is clean and minimal. As much as ‘The Children of the Night’ wandered around flitting it’s tongue like a 70’s rock cobra, ‘Down Below’ chimes, jangles and twinkles much like Tiamat did once they’d shed their death metal tendrils on ‘A Deeper Kind of Slumber’. So, if Gothic metal needed it’s Ghost, then they’ve found it in Tribulation’s knack for moderately catchy guitar runs. It is a conflicting listen no matter how many times I run through it because there is obvious talent and power in tracks like “Nightbound” and the huge hooks of “Lady Death” but the rest is largely a flophouse of lesser ideas and the schlock of “Here Be Dragons” barely saves the second half of the record.

It is hard to explain how a band can go from being your favorite new death metal group to a questionable Gothic vampire rock band in just a few short years. Though looking at the history of bands like Paradise Lost, Tiamat, Ceremony, Cemetery, and even Sentenced they’re -probably- onto something more valuable to more people. I’m simply no longer the target audience for this band and I wish them well in making a living doing it.


Artist Tribulation
Type Album
Released January 26, 2018
Listen on Spotify Tribulation Official Website

Darkness swallowing the cupped hilt. 2.5/5.0

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