Down Below by Tribulation (2018)

I was a little worry about Tribulation‘s new album these past days. I’d decided not to listen to any of the songs they’d published to be able to register my impressions better when I listened to it for the first time (with the exception of Lady Death, which they played at their concert), but I could not resist to watch the video clip of the song titled The Lament. To my surprise, it sounded too much … poppy. Well, it’s a single and now they’re with a bigger label, so maybe that could explain it. I wanted to know at least what opinions the album was raising among the critics, so I looked in some blogs and magazines for the anticipated reviews. All wonderful, as it is always for magazines, unless a band is extremely bad. I searched a little more, in blogs not so well known. In one of them, the author of the review insinuated very clearly that perhaps they had become sold-outs, an infamous term that no band into more or less underground genres would want to see associated with its name. In the comment section, a couple of fans commented sadly on the evolution of the band and their melodic drift. My alarms went off. I decided to get the feeling of what fans were thinking by consulting what people were saying about them in some forums dedicated to metal. No one was much excited, and some seemed disappointed. And I worried more.

I will not deny it or try to hide it: as for metal, I consider myself a purist. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to many genres and many types of music, I’m not one of those radical people who dedicate themselves to adore a style or subgenre above all things, but I like my metal bands to stay metal, and my non-metal bands to stay non-metal. And since Tribulation, a band that I considered original, interesting and unique in the progressive metal genre, has decided to explore the border between metal and dark hard rock, I’m not too happy. In fact, I feel sad and disappointed with this issue, as if something that pointed out ways to be very good, would have fallen by the wayside. They’ve evolved and seem to have found their style, but I wish that evolution had been in another direction.

Most critics have opined that Down Below is the natural continuation of The Children of the Night. In my opinion, both of them are hundreds of years away. Although The Children of the Night was not the most metal album in the world, it did retain the influence of black metal and exploited it wisely, mixing it originally with gothic style, resulting in a cryptic and interesting product. The organ ornaments and other elements gave the music solemnity and the melodies were dark, playful and a bit evil. For example, in Melancholia, and throughout the album, there is a rare mixture of irony, sadness and evilness that has disappeared in this new album, where only the darkness of the melodies combined with various elements of hard rock remains, something that is still original, but that for me has lost a lot of interest.

Another aspect that I didn’t like about the new work is rhythm, one of the most important elements in metal, but the one that more. In most of the tracks, it’s just too basic, almost an insult to intelligence, when in their previous album we could listen to much richer rhythms. It seems that the new drummer hasn’t sat well with them. Another aspect is that the music is excessively produced to me, something that has caught my attention especially, since in its previous works, perhaps by the influence the black metal, the different instruments were much more mixed and there was not so much clarity.

The only good thing that stands out is that they have shortened the duration of the album, because their previous work was excessively long. Another good thing is that at least they have conserved the guttural voices being faithful to their identity, which, from what I have read, seems to be something consciously chosen, although sometimes they don’t stick too much with the tone of the new music. The guitar of this album seems more condensed, focused and cleverly thought than in the previous album, but even so, the bit of ‘dirtiness’ they had previously was more candid. Finally, the best part of the album for me has been the second part, from the song Purgatorio, and especially, Lacrimosa, where you can listen something closer to their previous style.

In short, Tribulation is still a band that offers very original, dark music, and sure that many people will love it. The quality of Down Below is very good despite everything, the details have been taken care of and, above all, it is an album accessible to the not too usual public. If you aren’t into metal or you like hard rock, you will surely love this album. If you expect to find some metal, however, there is nothing here for you to headbang to.

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