Album Title: Where The Gloom Becomes Sound
Label: Century Media Records
Date of Release: 29 January 2021
I may not be as well versed as many of you out there in the ways of Tribulation, having only ‘discovered’ them in 2018 via ‘Down Below’, but news of a new a new album still had me on the verge of salivation. I really enjoyed the epiphany that ‘Down Below’ provided, and I came to ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’ with a lot of interest and intrigue. After all, here’s a band that apparently started out as a black/death band in 2004 but who have, over the course of their career, experimented with their sound, thus moving further away from their roots in many respects. Where would ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’ take the Swedish quartet next?
First off, the new album reveals that Tribulation have taken a meander down a path known colloquially as ‘Line-Up Change Lane’. Somewhat surprisingly, guitarist Jonathan Hultén has departed, apparently to focus on his solo acoustic career. It means that the remaining trio of guitarist Adam Zaars, vocalist/bassist Johannes Andersson and drummer Oscar Leander have welcomed Joseph Tholl to their ranks as replacement.
Secondly, in answer to my largely rhetorical question above, ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’ finds Tribulation in the form of their life, at least in my opinion. There are plenty of similarities to be heard between this record and their last, meaning there’s no real confusion that this is anyone but Tribulation. However, the atmospheres have been dialled up ever further, the Gothic elements are even more pronounced, and the melodies have become more potent. They were great on ‘Down Below’, but for my personal tastes, they’re even stronger on this new release.
The first exhibit I would rely upon to evidence this statement comes in the form of the opening track, ‘In Remembrance’. I know it is only mid-January as I type this, but it has every chance of featuring in my year-end ‘best songs’ list. It is magnetic, irresistible, and catchy as hell too. The opening, solemn and minimalist notes cast an immediate darkness over us, but it picks up with some delightfully subtle guitar notes and a vaguely sinister tinkling. From there, we’re launched straight into something altogether heavier, whilst still remaining somewhat restrained. Andersson’s recognisable rasp takes centre stage, as the intensity builds courtesy of his eloquent bass and Oscar Leander’s effective drumming. The dual guitars of Zaars and Tholl swirl and eddy, demonstrating an immediate connection that suggests Hultén’s departure won’t linger too long in the memory. However, it is the chorus that elevates the song to its lofty standing in my estimations. It’s a gigantic hook-fest that sounds atmospheric and groovy at the same time. I can’t get enough of it, but I must as I need to talk about the rest of the album.
‘Hour Of The Wolf’ comes next and it immediately settles into a nice driving mid-tempo, with a demonstrable folk edge to it. But the blackened folk-rock carries with it an important edge, that keeps that almost suffocating darkness firmly in place despite the playfulness of the track in places. It’s a much more honed affair than the opener, but it works well, nonetheless.
One of the biggest ‘growers’ on this album has to be ‘Leviathans’. It was released as the first ‘single’, so it has had the greatest amount of time to burrow into our brains. And, to a certain extent, it needed it to finally work its magic. It’s a grand affair, where the effects and the drums lend it a cinematic quality. The chorus is great, but it took plenty of time to reach this conclusion. However, the best part of the song comes at the halfway point where there’s a tolling bell that signals the cessation of all instrumentation, to be replaced by eerie effects, over which some vibrant melodic lead guitar notes emerge, duetting with a sinister spoken-word monologue. The pulsating muscularity of the song that returns, feels stronger and more powerful as a result, with those lead guitar notes a real highlight as the song eventually dies.
The opening to ‘Dirge Of A Dying Soul’ is, fittingly, a slow, doom-laden affair but, after a short, quieter interlude, the doom is married with understated melody whilst Andersson revels in weaving a tragic tale of misery and death. The track ebbs and flows wonderfully, and with the inclusion of tolling bells amongst other effects, it is the most ‘progressive’ sounding song on the album, as well as being one of the most atmospheric and darkly Gothic.
‘Lethe’ is a beautifully fragile classically-inspired piano instrumental, which then gives way to ‘Daughter Of The Djinn’, an altogether more urgent, upbeat and punchy track with strong riffs. The flamboyance of the rhythm section in the latter stages is a great touch, as is the lead guitar wailing.
It’s as if the band decided to consciously depress the accelerator pedal after the aforementioned ‘Lethe’, because the pace and intensity remains for the punchy ‘Elementals’, with ‘Funeral Pyre’ cutting loose even more to deliver the fastest, spikiest riffing on the record, thus proving that their older, more extreme roots haven’t entirely withered yet.
The more I listen to ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’, the more I find to enjoy about it. Even the closing track, ‘The Wilderness’ offers more than I first thought. It isn’t the strongest track on the album, but it still has plenty about it to enjoy. It means that, after much deliberation on my part, I enjoy this work of darkness a little more than its predecessor, with their stock rising ever higher in my eyes. With a level of consistency like this, despite the continued experimentation and the loss of a key member of the band, the sky really is the limit for Tribulation. Get this album in your lugholes quickly, and join me in enjoying this slab of intoxicating gloom.
The Score of Much Metal: 91%
Further reviews from 2021:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: