Thursday, January 20, 2022

Tribulation - Where the Gloom Becomes Sound (2021)

If I was already surprised that Tribulation stuck to the same general sound for two full-length albums, I was even more so when that number became three. Where the Gloom Becomes Sound cultivates another minor evolution to the Goth-driven melodic death metal niche that the band has become possibly the sole inhabitant of, but it certainly does lack the element of surprise you might have experienced on Children of the Night. But don't take that as some deal-breaking critique, because this album is thus far their best manifestation of the corpse-painted, emotional noir that the band has been vibing off, and it's an album that repeatedly rewards the listener, especially when you can set the proper mood: an autumn drive through the countryside, an empty city during lockdown, or just the candles and shadows of your personal Batcave.

The tunes here are all written at accessible lengths, and not immediately impressive, but that's the true strength of Where the Gloom Becomes Sound. The riffs aren't 'long', per se, but the Swedes have learned how to play the long game with them, and craft tunes that are so much more appealing when you pull the lens back and appreciate their entire structure, which is more or less rock-based and then filtered through the grisly guttural vocals. Most of the guitars are wistful, melodic, even folksy, and the use of pianos, percussion and other elements definitely gives this one almost a Gothic country/folk spin to compliment the weaving of the electrics. That's not to say it isn't guitar-heavy or metallic, because the guitars dazzle with a bevy of hypnotic patterns in tunes like "In Remembrance" and "Leviathans" that are among the best they've written, but it's all fairly smooth and inoffensive, an extremely far cry from the harsh death/thrashing on the band's underrated debut (though the intro riff to "Funeral Pyre" gets a bit speedy for a moment, just not in the same way).

The bass lines are simple and perfect, the organs melancholic, the drumming is great, the entire band is aces, really, and what's even more important is that the tracks here are more effective and impactful than those of the prior two albums. I'm not even sure what else to compare this to? Maybe a bit of Sentence post-Amok, or Moonspell's earlier Goth metal diversions come to mind, where you'd hear a similar approach to the guitars, but Tribulation has really mastered the emotional resonance of this style by now. That's not to the album is 100% perfect for me...the piano segue "Lethe" is fine, and there are certain a few tunes in the depths that use samey techniques to some of the extremely strong album openers ("Elementals" starts like a reconfiguration and re-tempo'd "Leviathans"), but there's nothing in the 48 minutes that is really skippable, the lyrics read like gorgeous and fitting Gothic/doom lamentations, and the album is definitely one that hits me even closer to the feels with each successive listen. If I hadn't such a hard-on for The Horror, which could almost be a different band altogether, this would nudge past its two predecessors to become my favorite of their albums.

Verdict: Epic Win [9.25/10] (Among bellflowers and devil's bite)

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