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Down Below

Century Media (2018)
Rating: 8/10

Cinematic death metal. Is there such a thing? Sweden’s Tribulation thinks so… and they’re pretty good at it too. Think of the band Ghost for a minute. Now that’s what comes to mind when I listen to Tribulation’s new disc, Down Below. It’s heavy and it’s deathly, but in a different kind of way. For example, if you listen close enough, there’s a massive Goth undercurrent that runs right down the middle of this album. I point that out because it’s a good thing – it works here, and I like it.

The death metal vibe meeting the Goth / dark spirit thing marries quite well together, and that’s hard to pull off. A lot of bands have tried meshing different styles together, but can’t get it right.

On this, their fourth record, Tribulation have found a unique sound and identity. It’s not Ghost, who I mentioned earlier, nor is it Opeth or My Dying Bride, but it is progressive, and about as progressive as death metal can get before crossing over into other territory altogether. But make no mistake about it folks, Tribulation have come into their own with Down Below. It’s a well thought out, heavy slab of grandiose metal.

But let’s get back to that word “progressive” for a moment. This album is an exploration into where the underground ends and mainstream sound begins. They’re walking a fine line here, but they’re quite good at it. Down Below is a very entertaining record to listen to. It’s got teeth, it’s got kick to it, and that’s all you can ask for when it comes to metal. This isn’t primal, bark at the moon, caveman rock ‘n’ roll. This is highly textured, multi layered music that challenges the boundaries of what we call heavy, metal and death.

Down Below isn’t a concept record per se, but it does deal with themes of death and the afterlife, with song titles such as ‘Lady Death’, ‘Purgatorio’, and ‘Cries From The Underworld’. The band weaves a really cool tapestry of fear, anxiety and tension with its distinct presence of keyboards that round out the band’s sound. The music creates atmosphere covering you like a blanket, crashing into you like invisible waves of darkness and dread. The songs on this record are thick with contour and density that overflow with heaviness. They get under your skin and work through your head. A great example of this is the afoementioned ‘Lady Death’, which in my opinion is the best song on this album. It’s everything I just described and then some.

In a way, Tribulation reminds me of early King Diamond. Not in his vocal style, but similarities do exist nevertheless. A lot of death metal concentrates on how brutal and how aggressive the music can be, but Down Below isn’t that. In fact, it’s the opposite. This is an exercise in how many musical layers Tribulation can lay down and intertwine to create heavy dreamscapes that are both crushing and melodic at the same time.

I’m predicting that this is the album that puts Tribulation on the map, and if MTV were still playing music today then this would be the band they’d break. If the Tribulation boys are on top of their game here, they might want to start thinking about putting together a dynamic live show, maybe something theatrical, to match the intensity and depth of Down Below.

This is one great record. For fans who like their metal unique and well thought out. Now go forth and conquer.

Theron Moore

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