(CD/LP, Century Media, 2018)
Ok, I get it; bands like Sweden’s Black-ened Dark-theatric quartet TRIBULATION aren’t out there to satisfy every taste, and it’s totally fine. But now that we’ve got that out of the way, I utterly dare you to find one band that was born and raised through the ’00s, able to release a new “Wildhoney”, “Irreligious”, “Amok” or a “Come, Reap” EP at least. Yeah right, that’s exactly my point; there is none... well, except TRIBULATION. After the impressive “The Children Of The Night” full length of 2015, many were convinced that this band will continue offering this unique monochromatic Vampiric Black Metal, so there was a good reason why I got so excited once the new TRIBULATION album reached my hands. And since I’ve already talked about a new groundbreaking offering following the innovative steps of TIAMAT, MOONSPELL, SENTENCED during the weird ‘90s, or even of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD that rocked our world for good almost a decade ago, let me explain why “Down Below” belongs to this category.
From the first spins of “Down Below”, you’ll get shivers down your spine feeling the darkness and grief lurking on every corner. The dusky production fits like Victorian glove to a bare hand and does absolutely justice to the melancholic refrains / bridges that sometimes meet 1973’s “The Exorcist” secretly in the dark (like it happens on the opening “The Lament”), or have a cup of London Fog tea with the FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM’s “The Watchman” (like on the babbling “Nightbound”). But TRIBULATION’s Gothic-tinted husky Metal doesn’t stop here, and offers some of the best moments of the band’s discography, like the “Melancholia”-No.2 “Lady Death” or THE DEVIL’S BLOOD-esque “The World” that, to my ears, sounds like the perfect guitar-tribute to Selim Lemouchi (R.I.P.).
Does this mean that the Swedish quartet reinvented the wheel? “No”, is the answer, so you have to dig deeper to find the real gems that will stand out after “Down Below” has haunted your speakers for a while and has taken the proper amount of time for the rest of the compositions to show their true colors. “Subterranea” with its GOBLIN-esque structure that escalates into a beautiful GHOST-laden guitar orgy, painted by Andersson’s most soulful, nihilistic growls, is definitely one of these tracks standing out from the rest after the 10th or so listening session. The same goes for “Lacrimosa” with its MOONSPELL-like “Sin/Pecado”-driven atmosphere where it gives you the feeling that you’re watching a sinister version of F.F. Coppola’s “Dracula” but with eyes closed. And, of course, I shouldn’t leave aside the ‘more melancholic / less Metal’ moments of the album, the lullaby-esque “Purgatorio” and the “Here Be Dragons” epos, that shine through their cinematic atmosphere / nostalgic feeling that used to give life to any kind of bizarre monsters and outcast creatures inside old theatres, adorned by moldy wallpapers and crystal chandeliers, and circus’ stripped tents.
While listening to “Down Below” from the awesome-looking white LP, I checked some of the online comments regarding this release saying “how pity it is that TRIBULATION turned into a ghost of their own self”, or even “how they have became commercial" and hence more appealing to a wider audience. These made me laugh, and I am pretty sure that the only way to keep all these online trolls happy is by feeding them with ‘copy / paste’ music. To my ears, “Down Below” is not a “The Children Of The Night” No.2, but a diverse and innovative album, ideal to listen to every time you’d like to check out of the window for bat wings flapping, or every time you feel the hair of your back grow under a full moon.
01. The Lament
03. Lady Death
06. Cries From The Underworld
08. The World
09. Here Be Dragons
Johannes Andersson - Bass, Vocals
Adam Zaars - Guitar
Jonathan Hultén - Guitar
Oscar Leander - Drums