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Tribulation - Down Below Award winner

Down Below
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 09 February 2018, 7:12 AM

Progressive Death/Black Metal quartet TRIBULATION formed in Arvika, Sweden in 2004, formerly known as HAZARD. From their Facebook page comes the following biographical information: “Countless bands have gotten the trajectory wrong. Too many haven’t figured out the musical calculus. More than is fair have veered off the proverbial map never to be heard of again. And they’ve all suffered greatly from it. Not Tribulation.” “Down Below” is the band’s fourth full-length release, and contains nine tracks.

“The Lament” opens with soft, clean guitar notes, bordering on the fence between happy and sad. When the main sound kicks in, it’s an amalgam of various styles. The blackened vocals are very raspy and mid-ranged for the most part. I fail in trying to call it Black Metal, Death Metal, or Progressive Metal by itself…it really is a unique sound. A repeated melody line helps to highlight a strong musical sense however. “Nightbound” has some pep, in an otherwise suspenseful sound. The simple but effective melody line is really easy on the ears, while some Progressive elements come into play in the form of chord shifting that really keep you on your toes as a listener. “Lady Death” is a short, but very rich track. The Death vocals are deep and malevolent, but the guitars provide a bit of an outer world sound, especially the lead breaks, which sound like they are coming from a hollow metal cylinder.

“Subterranea” opens with some piano notes that seem innocuous, but hint at the harrowing sound that will follow. What follows is mid-tempo wickedness in the way the guitar chords progress. The ominous striking of a bell during the interlude helps with this as well. “Purgatorio” is even scarier, but in the subtlest of forms. The melody seems sweet but if you can peer through the smoke screen, there is more than meets the eye. Follow the nice Mr. Clown, they said. He has candy and other treats. It’s OK that it’s dark and he is headed down an isolated alley. “Cries from the Underworld” is more out in the open, but still very much straddles a fence between the things in the world that bring darkness, and those that bring light. Call me crazy, but the band GHOST surely got some of their influence from TRIBULATION. They are very different bands, of course, and I am not making any comparisons. But the melancholy drone that can be picked up here under the more obvious sounds is a technique that, while very subtle in this song, is basically the entire driving sound for early GHOST.

“The World” comes a bit out left field at first, but I love it. The guitars in the beginning form a nice melody that contrasts with the despondent Death Vocals but not in a “water doesn’t mix with oil” way…more like in the way of the inner conflict in your mind that you must deal with every day…the struggle to remain honorable, or succumb to your darkest desires. “Here be Dragons” is the extended closing track, at over seven minutes. It’s a narrative saga, with a lonely sound of sorts. The short guitar solo is brilliant and really leaves a mark. The effects in the instrument almost make it sound like spacy keyboard notes.

Overall, this is a fantastic album. Balance and subtlety are the keys to a sound that is sophisticated, accomplished and unrestricted at the same time. But it doesn’t fall into the trap of being technically overdone. Indeed, it’s clear and easy to listen to as well, choosing Progressive elements that are more supportive than in the driver’s seat, and sews together these directive pieces into a uniform product. When you talk about an album that really pulses with all of the unique flavors of a band’s personality, “Down Below” is a fine example of this.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. The Lament
2. Nightdown
3. Lady Death
4. Subterranea
5. Purgatorio
6. Cries from the Underworld
7. Lacrimosa
8. The World
9. Here be Dragons
Johannes Andersson – Bass, Vocals
Jonathan Hultén – Guitars
Oscar Leander – Drums
Adam Zaars – Guitars 
Record Label: Century Media


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