TRIBULATION - Down Below
January 31, 2018, a year ago
When all of the last words of this world have been uttered, Sweden’s Tribulation will probably be remembered for two incredible, and incredibly diverse, masterworks: 2009’s The Horror and 2015’s The Children of the Night. Despite both records being perfect 10 pinnacles (let’s take a second to acknowledge how rare a feat two 10s in one catalogue is, especially for a relatively new band), listening to both albums back to back is a strange, and not necessarily satisfying experience. While The Horror is death-thrash perfected to almost inhuman levels, The Children Of The Night is a deathly counter-point that contemplates the nuance, shade and dread that The Horror just does not have time for. And because both albums encapsulate their respective styles so well to an almost farcical extent, it truly sounds and feels like they’ve been written by different bands. It’s not like Slayer and The Sisters of Mercy ever toured together, if ya get what I’m saying.
Which is what makes the prospect of Down Below so intriguing. Down Below, clearly, is not in league with The Horror, nor did we expect it to be. But given the seismic shift between Tribulation’s early work and The Children Of The Night, there was curiosity as to whether Tribulation would take another massive leap into something, or anything, else. And, while that hasn’t happened, that’s not exactly a surprise. The Children Of The Night brought widespread acclaim for the band, and re-routing to remain just doesn’t seem logical or in the immediate plans.
That said, what immediately strikes the listener as Down Below plays, even for the first time, is that this album very much feels like a sequel to The Children Of The Night. And, like most sequels, this is good, but not overwhelming like the original. Case in point: while The Children Of The Night was strong in so many ways, its centrepiece was the unstoppable “Melancholia”, a track that had the gravitas and importance of the aforementioned Sisters of Mercy, as well as Katatonia and In Solitude. Down Below, for all its gentle-rain, fog walks down central streets, doesn’t have a “Melancholia”. Which is understandable when we all sit down and realize how hard it is to capture that particular lightning in that specific bottle.
But, make no mistake, Down Below is still a record worth investing your time into. Tribulation has found an extremely unique niche and knows how to write this type of material in strong, visceral, moving ways. And the band's image fits, too: Tribulation is Goth vampiricism in autumn coats and skinny jeans, bringing night to daylight while writing with the disparate intensity of both of those times.