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Tribulation - Down Below (Album Review)

Monday, 29 January 2018 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Photo: Ester Segarra

Netflix used to be rubbish. Remember?

Then slowly, surely, surreptitiously, so sneakily, it became the irresistible, sexy, sleek bastard it is today. Tribulation are a bit like Netflix.

Starting life as a death metal band, the Swedish quartet initially worshipped at the altars of Possessed, Nihilist, Entombed and old-school Kreator. Just nasty shit, really.

Their debut LP, ‘The Horror’, crawled from the pit in 2009 but, since then, Tribulation have grappled with the pendulum and hoisted themselves out, first expanding into more progressive, blackened territories with 2013’s ‘The Formulas of Death’;

And then we were handed ‘Children of the Night’ in 2015. If you heard the record over the shouts of ‘sell out!’, then you were privy to an electrifying blend of melancholia, ‘80s goth, classic rock and undertones of good old Swedish death metal.

This brief, cruelly abridged history is essential. It’s essential because you need to get up to speed. Because Tribulation’s fourth album, ‘Down Below’, trumps all their previous achievements. Unless Tool pull their collective finger out and release new music over the next 11 months, then the metal album of the year is already decided.

This is what you thought Ghost would sound like when you first saw the photos. This plugs the hole that In Solitude left and then some. This is the gateway into extreme metal that a band like Watain might not be able to provide.

‘Down Below’ is for HIM and Fields of the Nephilim fans as much as it is At The Gates obsessives. And a song like Nightbound is a shining example of why. It’s a loose, bluesy swinger that grinds against Johannes Andersson’s raspy croak. It’s Deep Purple does death metal. Andersson’s annunciation is crystal clear and monochromatic, staying level as the wiry, Thin Lizzy-ish dual guitars build to the chorus.

It’s like being buried alive and finding a bouncy castle in your casket. It’s miserably euphoric; a ghoulish anthem. It’s Tribulation’s crowning achievement as a band to date. But Nightbound isn’t the record’s ‘standout’ moment, as such. It just happens to be the most obvious.

‘Down Below’ packs so many of these wonderful snapshots, whether that is the spear-twisting-the-innards, Entombed-esque death metal rumble of Lacrimosa or The World’s domineering riff coming backed by a subtle choral fleet. Then there’s the triumphant finale of Here Be Dragons and the line “Entering your final hour, feel the cold, the demon’s touch” squirming straight from King Diamond’s playbook.

This record is a grotesque representation of everything that’s brilliant about rock music. It has classic metal soloing, weeping strings and lyrics about, y’know, death and stuff. There are luscious piano passages throughout that lend it an atmosphere somewhere between Cradle of Filth’s pompous Hammer Horror and Type O Negative.

And that’s Tribulation. ‘Down Below’ is understated yet overblown, savage but serene. Clocking in at 47 minutes, it’s enough to ensnare you but not so long as to misplace your attention. Every song is a genuine earworm/maggot. It’s the decrepit result of a decade’s slow, steady improvement. It’s Stockholm’s underbelly bursting into a blood red sky under a full moon.





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