Emerging from the darkness of the Swedish death metal abyss in 2004, the band immediately stood apart from what was already a crowded scene, betraying an uncompromising vision that refused to be shackled by any genre stereotypes.
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. From 2009’s 'The Horror' to 2013’s 'The Formulas of Death', the Swedes secretly figured out how to refactor death metal’s tenets to their favor. No more were Tribulation merely the product of their influences but rather something more, a step beyond wanton barbarity and the unharnessed fire of youth. Likewise, the venture between 2015’s The Children of the Night—a breakout moment for the Stockholmites—and new album Down Below is a yet another step into the unknown, where shadowy creatures glare with eyes ablaze and howl with white fangs bared. The years between and miles traveled could’ve forced the Swedes off their fiendish path, but they stayed true. From its obsidian core to its fluttering expanses, Down Below is a triumph of darkness and death. Or, very much Tribulation.
“I wouldn’t say that evolution is as dramatic this time around,” says guitarist Adam Zaars. “There are elements from both 'The Formulas of Death' and 'The Children of the Night' (and 'The Horror' for that matter) on the new album, but with a new flavor. 'Down Below' is heavier and a bit rawer than Children and it wanders in similar territories when it gets more expansive, but it’s surely on different paths. It’s a very peculiar process when making music because you hear quite instantly whether something works if you try something ‘bold.’ And often you feel it even before you try it out and you have to tell everyone else to bear with you until you reach the point (whatever and where ever that is) where your idea has manifested in the way that you first saw or heard it. I think it’s the same for all of us. It’s all very Tribulation at least!”
Indeed, Down Below has the hallmarks of Tribulation’s previous oeuvre. Frontman Johannes Andersson is as reptilian as ever, hissing and croaking poetic threads of necro-romance, while the guitars of Zaars and Jonathan Hultén seduce the dead and spellbind the living, and drummer—in his first appearance for Tribulation—Oscar Leander swings through Andersson’s bass playing with star-quality confidence. But there’s more to Down Below than Tribulation let on. There’s creepy pipe organs, John Carpenteresque slasher movements, ominous church bells, and monk calls woven through and into the Swedes’ Jugendstil-inspired death. While most are conspicuous in their new travails, the Swedes hide their moody innovations on 'Down Below'.
“You can fit a lot into the space that we’re creating, but it’s always got to be of the right substance,” Zaars says. “It’s all a matter of balancing on the edge and not falling. I think that’s often what we do, actually. We push it all quite hard in many different directions and try not to fall over, be it cheesiness, pretentiousness or whatever. As an example, we have been writing about the vampire theme for a while now, a theme that is very, very cheesy if you do it in the wrong way (which to me is pretty much every way). Vampires and folk influences, it sounds like a pretty horrible mix, but it’s all very dear to us and so we treat it with respect.
We try the same approach in the music. We take it all very seriously, and hopefully that works.”