Tribulation – Where the Gloom Becomes Sound Review

I’ve loved Tribulation backwards. After Dr. Fisting‘s review introduced me to Down Below, I paid it forward to my fiancée, whose reaction was initially lukewarm. But after we witnessed the band play at the Dynamo Metalfest festival, she became an even bigger fan than I was, and she started spinning their material relentlessly. This obsession exposed me to much of the band’s back catalog, from the recent gothic-oriented material to the early Entombed-style death metal, and even branching off to guitarist Jonathan Hultén’s excellent dark folk solo album Chants From Another Place last year. Predictably, we were both a little crushed to hear that Hultén decided to hang up his veils with the Swedish foursome after the recording of Where the Gloom Becomes Sound. But has it become a worthy farewell salute?

Well… Some of it has, beginning with the opener “In Remembrance.” The atmosphere is thick and gloomy, vocalist Johannes Andersson growls evocatively, and in true Tribulation fashion, the riffs are seductively hook-laden without taking the obvious route. The interplay between Hultén and rhythm guitarist Adam Zaars sways dynamically and ensures the song always feels like it’s on the move, and the crescendo of the chorus is fittingly dramatic. Other highlights include the energetic “Daughter of the Djinn” with its jagged ascending hooks and harmonized, Maiden-esque final solo, its rapid-fire vocals and its dynamic tempo changes that allow drummer Oscar Leander to show off a little, and “Funeral Pyre” which is thick with Eternal Champion style riffs.

But the amount of disappointing tracks is quite a bit higher than what I’m used to from this band. First single “Hour of the Wolf” is the most egregious contender and had me fearful since its initial release. The lyrics are a dull string of clichés with sloppy meter, the tempo and drumming barely change across the entire running time, it’s dreadfully predictable and ends with a lazy fade-out. It very much feels like a track thrown together last minute because they found out they still needed a single. It’s a stark difference to their previous albums, where every track displayed an intricacy that was fine-tuned to the point of feeling effortless, and the flow of the melodic hooks was completely intuitive.

This shortage of polish mars a significant part of Where the Gloom Becomes Sound, though nowhere as bad as “Hour of the Wolf.” Instead it mostly informs the little things. The songwriting is more straightforward, the progression more predictable. This simplified inclination occasionally brings Ghost to mind, just with vampires rather than Satanic popes. To be fair, even a simplified Tribulation is better than most bands landing in our promo pile. They still have a knack for inventive riffs and the way the lead and rhythm guitar play off one another makes for a fun listen even with these qualitative downturns in mind. The solos in particular are excellent, injecting a bit of NWoBHM harmony into the guitars. Andersson is as clear-voiced as ever without sacrificing grit and tone, and much of the gloomy atmosphere comes to life under his performance. But it’s hard to fully appreciate what’s good on an album when you know how much better it ordinarily is.

Without being privy to the process, it’s hard to tell exactly what made Where the Gloom Becomes Sound such a step down from its immediate predecessor, and whether the approaching departure of Hultén had something to do with it. But perhaps new blood will turn out to be a boon for Tribulation in the long run. After their first three albums changed dramatically in style one after the other, their rate of evolution has slowed significantly in recent years. A fresh perspective, now provided by Joseph Tholl (ex-Enforcer), could prove the shot in the arm the band needs. Because even though this album is still worth a few spins, I know they are capable of a hell of a lot more.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 29th, 2021

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