PALLBEARER / TRIBULATION
Date: 18th September, 2018
Venue: The Bottom Lounge
Ticket: $19/€16 (in advance) - $22/€19 (day of show)
Promoter: Kickstand Productions
Sometimes I appreciate a shorter-than-usual billing, especially when it is not filled with local bands. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to get introduced to local acts, but sometimes in the middle of the week I like getting back at home before midnight. Sure, this can be easily connected to getting older, but I will not pretend that my body is not complaining when it gets too much. Anyways, enough with the geezer talk, because the first band of the night was TRIBULATION whom I had not the pleasure watching on stage before. And to make my experience even better, I stayed as far as possible from all those smartphone video recordings and kept the element of surprise alive and kicking. This turned out to be a check-mate move because my experience was even better, so please allow me to explain how...
First of all, the venue had been filled really nice (not packed but not scarcely occupied), so inside The Bottom Lounge there were people who really wanted to see the two bands (another benefit of having short billings as they are not present any show-goers). So, the atmosphere was great and became a little bit mystic after lighting some incense sticks to give the set the appropriate Occult push. One thing that I really appreciate Swedish Metal bands for, is their high level of professionalism; the majority of the bands know how to present their music and, most importantly, how to deliver it from the stage. TRIBULATION entered this category the moment drummer Oscar Leander took his position behind the drum kit, but without sitting down. During the church organ intro, he just stood with his hands tied behind the back coldly looking at the crowd. I know that describing this does not seem much, but trust me; the lights, the incense, the eerie taped intro and the creepy looking corpsepaint sent us some serious chills. And then, boom, the rest of the band showed up, leaving Jonathan Hultén last but definitely not least. Like I said, I had no experience whatsoever seeing TRIBULATION live, so I was not prepared for Jonathan’s unique guitar-playing. The way he is almost ballet-dancing without missing a chord or a riff is a unique thing to see (to say the least). On top of this, it creates a Gothic type of atmosphere in a Vampire way which falls absolutely in line with the band’s guitar-driven Heavy Metal. After pulling myself together from this shock, I started enjoying “Lady Death” which was elevated from the visual aspect of TRIBULATION. If a band knows how to behave live and knows how to visually support the music, then we are talking about a different / unique concert going experience. Without wasting much time, and after a short “Chicago” salute by Johannes Andersson, the Swedes hit us with the up-tempo “Melancholia”. I enjoy seeing a mixed crowd in Metal shows, having people from a wide spectrum of social groups; there are Gothic fans, die-hard metalheads and the occasional millennials who deserve additional credit for leaving their smartphone to enjoy this experience.
“Good evening! Welcome to the show” said the singer / bassist before letting the almost acoustic arpeggios of “The Lament” open the door to the Horror movie aesthetics that are so missed from all this Hollywood crap we are being served on a torturing rate. Speaking of the bassist, I could not get rid of the resemblance of Johannes’ onstage presence with Tom G. Warrior of the CELTIC FROST fame, and that’s a genuine compliment.
Aside from Johannes who had to stand behind the mic most of the time, the two guitarists were in constant motion and had a unique way of connecting with the audience. Yeah, with the help of the Gothic-looking corpsepaint (it is not Metal at all to say “make-up”), they were staring at the front rows with a Vampire-eerie way when not lip-singing along. Again, the words may be poor to describe the setting, but it was totally in line with the music. It was impossible not to get goosebumps listening to the guitar intro of “Suspiria De Profundis” and avoiding having a lurking taste of TIAMAT from their “Clouds”/ “Gaia” days. I guess the guttural vocals and the heavier song-structure helped my mind to make this connection.
TRIBULATION is not a band that does not like to stand still (literally and figuratively), with the latter referring to the musical direction every LP of theirs is heading. After the heavy and epic “Suspiria De Profundis”, it was time to lighten things up with the more melodic “Cries From The Underworld” which in a bizarre way reminds me of BATHORY’s epic albums. The band kept the in-between-song intervals minimum and this created a nice flow similar to watching a movie; without annoying gaps and without low moments. Even the guitar solos had their own unique character; starting off with Jonathan who started recording short guitar licks creating an almost entire song and then onwards to Adam who did a riffs-upon-riffs compilation. The return of the entire band onstage saw Johannes introducing the band before getting on with the show with “The World” and the super-hit “Nightbound” which I believe was the setlist’s highlight. Based on the gathered momentum, TRIBULATION followed up this hit with ode to the children of the night “Strange Gateways Beckon” and wrapped their performance with the faster “Lacrimosa”. Did this set feel short? Of course it did, but not because there were few songs, but because there was a lot to absorb and enjoy. I can see this band doing great things here in the US, if they’ll get the proper exposure. Until next time, beloved children of the Night...
01. “Lady Death”
03. “The Lament”
04. “The Motherhood Of God”
05. “Suspiria De Profundis”
06. “Cries From The Underworld”
07. “Cauda Pavonis”
08. Guitar Solo - Jonathan Hultén
09. Guitar Solo - Adam Zaars
10. “The World”
12. “Strange Gateways Beckon”
(click to enlarge)
The crowd did not thin in numbers, even though PALLBEARER would drastically change our listening taste [sic]. Their super slow and ton-heavy Doom is not to be taken lightly and despite the low bpms, the layers upon layers of guitar / bass effects create a monolith of a sound. Oh yeah, “Watcher In The Dark” pushed the volume scales to the red but without dismissing the surprising clarity. It was awesome to look at the combination of guitar and bass pedals those three gentlemen had in their disposal and the way of navigating through the different sounds. The crushing tempos got a good part of the crowd into headbanging mode sneaking in a SLEEP bass-driven way that cannot be ignored. The sound inside The Bottom Lounge was loud, but like I said, it was clear, so we got to fully indulge into the guitar solo layers safely hidden behind the massive bass hammering. This is the definition of the crushing Doom Metal rhythm section at tempos that are borderline touching upon Funeral or even Sludge territories. “Good evening, Chicago”, said bassist Joseph who seemed to be following TRIBULATION’s path of less talking and more doing. I don’t think there was anyone inside The Bottom Lounge who had any complaint to make about this. After all, “Thorns” sped things a bit putting on the spotlight PALLBEARER’s capability to write shorter but equally Doom-heavy songs. To be honest, I liked the longer songs more; sure, “Dropout” came out great but how one cannot love the crushing “Foundations” and not bang his head like there’s no tomorrow following the hammer on the anvil bass? And then, feeling Brett’s pain as he is wailing the lyrics out in an almost teenager-Ozzy way (with more melodic lines)...
The slow building-up start of “Lie Of Survival” highlighted the rich sound of the guitars and kind of justified the complex (for my unprofessional eyes) set of effect-pedals sitting in front of the two guitarists. Oh yeah, standing close to the stage almost blew my socks off despite the song’s slow tempo. This was definitely one of the moments you find yourself losing track of time while trying to follow where the riffs are heading… The spaced-out “Foreigner” reminded me why PALLBEARER is a special breed of Doom Metal, having expanding this genre’s borders by using slower than usual tempos but sounding heavy and complex at the same time. Just listen to this song more than once, and see how each time you’ll be peeling layer after layer, enjoying each and every step.
After this epic piece of solid Doom Metal, PALLBEARER said a brief goodnight and then left the stage. No one moved a muscle and started demanding the band to return. After this loud request, PALLBEARER hit for once more the stage and said that they love to play here, so an old one would be the swansong of the set. Who in his sane mind can say ‘no’ to an oldie, especially if this is “The Legend”. This was the perfect way to drop the curtain for this two-band billing who, despite the different Metal genres, was appealing to those who made their way in The Bottom Lounge right in the middle of a working week and left absolutely satisfied and full - just awesome!
01. “Watcher In The Dark”
05. “I Saw The End”
06. “Lie Of Survival”
08. “The Legend”
(click to enlarge)