Although they’re often described as being ‘extreme metal’, Swedish hellions Tribulation aren’t very extreme, and they’re very frequently not metal. What they are, especially after their sound underwent a dramatic shift on 2013’s Children Of The Night, is a gruff, theatrical kind of gothic rock, replete with growled vocals and soaring orchestral moments.
There’s heavy use of Deep Purple keyboards, and a kind of mature, considered restraint on their albums that belies their genre tags. If modern extreme metal were a movie, it would be a Saw or a Hostel or something disturbing, whereas Tribulation have more in common with Lon Chaney’s The Phantom Of The Opera.
Where The Gloom Becomes Sound, Tribulation’s third album in this style, is arguably their finest to date. Across the 10 songs we get to see the full range and power of the band, who will be together for the final time, as founding guitarist and primary songwriter Jonathan Hultén has departed the band since the completion of the record. Here, he was joined by Adam Zaars on guitars, vocalist/bassist Johannes Andersson and drummer Oscar Leander. The album was mostly composed by Hultén, who was busy writing for and celebrating the release of his solo album, Chants From Another Place, setting aside material for Tribulation after finding inspiration in singer-songwriter Roky Erickson and vintage Morbid Angel, the new wave of British heavy metal, and Swedish folk music.
From the measured, sinister pace of opener In Remembrance, to the widescreen battle-scene cinematics of closer The Wilderness, this range of diverse influences is clear: the band seem to take their signature sound through a kaleidoscope of different styles, while still remaining firmly in their gothic sandbox. Simply put, they push their sound outwards in every direction, and every push yields great results.
Second track – and album highlight – Hour Of The Wolf evokes both the band’s own Strange Gateways Beckon and elemental ’60s folk run through Danzig’s late ’80s guitar rig. Depending on where your tastes lie, you might hear Ritchie Blackmore or Johnny Marr in the shimmering lead guitar theatrics. Leviathans borrows liberally from Fields Of The Nephilim and The Sisters Of Mercy, especially in its brooding intensity and none-more-black theatrics.
Dirge Of A Dying Soul is a more classically-minded goth-metal cut, evoking the thunderous power of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, and it’s then followed by Lethe, which is a positively chilling instrumental piece led by solo piano. Daughter Of The Djinn shakes the cobwebs loose, showcasing everything that this lineup of the band do (did) so well: swirling guitars, serpentine bass and colossal drums. It’s powerful in a way that transcends genre, aiming right for the gut.
The band, if this is their last album with this line-up, have done themselves proud, rounding out a trilogy of fantastic albums with the jewel in the crown. Where The Gloom Becomes Sound, much like its older sisters Children Of The Night and Down Below, is evidence (if any were needed) that much of the best music being created these days lies in the most extreme genres. For something so gruesome, Where The Gloom Becomes Sound is surprisingly accessible. Lower the lights, pour yourself a glass of red, and enjoy the gloom – there’s no better way to dream yourself out of the madness of modern lockdown living.