Published Jan 27, 2021Black metal is one of the most prolific metal styles in the world, but its general musical inaccessibility prevents it from being embraced by the mainstream metal world, save for a handful of bands like Dimmu Borgir and Carach Angren. Enter Tribulation — this Swedish quartet have been at it since 2005, and in that time have released five studio albums, two EPs and a live record. They've been on an upward trajectory for a while, seeming one right move away from becoming a true household name. Their latest release, Where the Gloom Becomes Sound, is unquestionably the record this band needs to cement their status as frontrunners in 21st-century heavy metal.
Rather than rehashing old clichés, Tribulation blaze a new trail by combining sinister, ethereal black metal sounds with hard rock riffs, making them more palatable to new black metal listeners. While Johannes Andersson's eerie vocals are as haunting as any underground screecher's and Oscar Leander's cymbal-heavy drumming has imprints of early black metal all over it, there's an abundance of musical hooks that set these songs apart without sacrificing the black metal feel Tribulation have worked hard to keep intact.
Songs like the versatile "Hour of the Wolf," the monumental "Leviathans," the immensely catchy "Funeral Pyre" and riveting finale "The Wilderness" exemplify the expertise of the band's song-crafting abilities — seamlessly blending harshness, bleakness and melody into unique, memorable tunes.
Tribulation's hopeful rise isn't coming without its bumps in the road. In the midst of the promotion for this record, it was announced that it would be the last Tribulation effort with founding guitarist Jonathan Hultén, who would be exiting the band to move on to new endeavours. While a replacement is already in place and there appears to be no bad blood between the musicians, this is a difficult loss for Tribulation, especially seeing as Hultén wrote the majority of this album. This, of course, isn't to discount the importance of other members, but fans will agree that visually, musically and sonically, Hultén was an integral part of Tribulation's music and performances.
Where the Gloom Becomes Sound is a momentous record, but the question as to whether they can follow it up without one crucial member will linger until that day comes. (Metal Blade Records)