With Swedish metal band Tribulation, conversation often orbits around genre and how to classify them. Whether you subscribe to their classification as a death or black metal band, there is something undeniably unique about Tribulation and their brand of metal — whatever that may be.
The confusion stems from an abrupt transition between their sophomore release, The Formulas of Death, and their third, The Children of the Night. Tribulation abandoned their patented death metal sound for one decidedly less heavy, but far more interesting. The Children of the Night breathed new life into Tribulation and this most recent release, Down Below, cements it.
"Catchy" is not a word you often hear used to describe death or black metal, but this record is incontestably so. After only one listen, hooks will stick like syrup on a tile floor, and you'll find yourself humming riffs you've only ever heard once. Down Below starts off with one of the strongest front halves of a metal album in recent memory, delivering four banger tracks until the album reaches its midway point and intermission, "Purgatorio."
Each of these four tracks, while consistently infectious, follow a unique blueprint. "The Lament" falls somewhere between black and goth metal, while "Nightbound" favours a classic heavy metal style. "Lady Death" introduces a bit of thrash into the mix before "Subterranea" wraps up the first half by returning to the gothic style, only this time infusing it with heavy metal.
The latter half of Down Below opens with "Cries from the Underworld," another banger that promises to carry the momentum. The subsequent tracks, "Lacrimosa" and "The World" do barely enough to keep the hope of a perfect album alive; unfortunately, the final cut, in which the band pursue a more progressive route, falls flat and comes off as long-winded and directionless.
Save somewhat of a flat end, Down Below is a great metal album that blends multiple genres into a perfectly idiosyncratic sound that should bring Tribulation much success and attention. Overall, the album could stand to take a few more risks, but for now that is something we can look forward in Tribulation's future. (Century Media)