Death metal has remained an extremely interesting genre to monitor over the last decade or so. It would appear to the casual fan that the genre has been divided into two very large camps, each nestled at the far end of the spectrum. There are the polished, neatly wrapped bands who meld death metal with a seemingly endless barrage of anything ending in “core” (sans grind). On the other hand there are a bunch of bands playing death metal in the same gritty, dirty, dangerous style the great forefathers of the genre first offered it to the masses. But the spectrum of death metal is not just a straight line and somewhere on the dark side of the death metal moon exists bands such as Sweden’s Tribulation.
Really, at the end of the day, it’s almost hard to call Tribulation a death metal band per se. The vocals, one of the key elements in defining the genre, are ever present. A constant raspy stream of growled vocals from start to finish. But what lays underneath them is such an eclectic, and frankly exotic, blend of influences and sounds that you can almost envision death metal purists falling on their swords at the mere thought of it all. Let them bleed out because with their Century Media debut, The Children of the Night, Tribulation have written a stunningly unique album.
On their first two releases, Tribulation took death metal back to the future with the inclusion of a ton of thrash and traditional metal influences. On this album those traditional metal influences are met on the dance floor with various elements of hard rock and dark wave. Yet, what sounds on paper at least, as a potential train wreck of styles has been expertly crafted into a sound so rich and so devilishly dark that it’s hard not to get sucked into this album like an innocent bystander looming too close to the impending tornado. From the opening keyboards of “Strange Gateways Beckon” you have to realize that you’ve entered some dark realm where very few bands exist, or at least exist with any modicum of sonic success. Yet, by the time you hit the outright goth rock opus of “Säjalaflykt” it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that you are in the midst of some type of singular genre renaissance. Again, this isn’t your father’s death metal, hell it’s not even your older brother’s.
In the late 1990’s the European metal scene undertook what this writer has dubbed, ‘The Great European Mellowing’. This was a period where some of the heaviest bands only five or so years prior, had started to tune back up, clean it up, and release albums that were wholly accessible to audiences who had never heard these bands prior. You know the culprits. They don’t need to be named here. But imagine if some of those bands had kept the gruff vocals. Imagine if the more accessible proto-metal/hard rock/alt rock infused sound these bands experimented with had still retained some semblance of brutality, some semblance of the musical beast within. That would give you a close approximation of what Tribulation have achieved on this album. Wholly accessible at one turn, yet filled with aggressive grimness at every other. It’s a cunningly artful portrait of the marriage between the decorous and the raucous.
The Children of the Night is out now via Century Media Records. You can taste test the track “In Dreams of the Dead” at the Century Media Soundcloud page.