Here we are again with another collaborative review, and this is one we have been looking forward to for quite some time. Tribulation is a band that we both thoroughly enjoy, from their creative songwriting to their spooky swag, and we have both been enamored with their live performances over the years as their stage presence is otherworldly. When the news first broke about a new Tribulation album to kick off 2021, we had a feeling that this year would start off alright. Where the Gloom Becomes Sound is everything we expected it to be and more.
Where the Gloom Becomes Sound marks the last release of the band with longtime guitarist and primary songwriter Jonathan Hultén before he chose to depart. This puts a bit of a question mark on future releases from the band, but we know they are in good hands with new hire Joseph Tholl, and there’s really no way they can mess up the formula that the band has perfected on Where the Gloom Becomes Sound. Tribulation brings their high energy blend of gothic rock, death metal and post-punk to new heights and depths, with some new sonic experiments in the guitar tones and effects, as well as new lyrical content. As usual, the songs deal with death, resurrection, and what lies between, but this time Hultén also chose to explore myth, magic, and the five elements. “We immersed ourselves in the world of myth and magic,” says guitarist Adam Zaars. “With a specific focus on elemental magic, and the elements, in general, from both the Western and Indian esoteric traditions… myth and magic are obviously not something new in the world of Tribulation, but it got a bit more specific on this album. We just present it from a slightly different perspective.”
This album feels like a natural progression from the band’s last release, Down Below. Yet, it still has all the elements that Tribulation is known for. Johannes Andersson’s vocals are as gruff and macabre as ever, the twin guitar interplay of Hultén and Zaars is still catchy and skillful, and the songwriting is still chock full of hooks, killer riffs, and anthemic choruses. The main differences lie in the songwriting being more focused and the production more polished on Where the Gloom Becomes Sound, with the band foregoing some of their prog-rock leanings in favor of a more post-punk, almost pop-y sound. “In Remembrance” and “Hour of the Wolf” start the album off with a one-two punch of super captivating, sleek, and highly melodic songwriting that stay stuck in the brain like a bewitching spell. It might be lighter and more radio-friendly fare than the average death metal, but Tribulation also bring the thunder with tracks like “Funeral Pyre” and “Daughter of the Djinn,” both of which feature crushing, thrashy riffs, and blazing guitar work. Overall, there is an almost whimsical sense to the stories the band tells, and it makes the songwriting that much more memorable. This is an album that perfectly encapsulates everything that the band stands for but fine-tunes it in a way that will please both long time fans and bring new listeners into the fold.
Tribulation is a band that both of us hold dear. For Ian, his first time seeing them live without ever having heard of them prior instantly enchanted him. Angela was sold right away on the aesthetics, and in fact, her first ever Nine Circles review was a Tribulation album! Where the Gloom Becomes Sound is a very strong release from a band that continually improves with every album. It will be interesting to see what the next one holds without Hultén’s songwriting, but for now, we can take comfort in the fact that every member shines on Where the Gloom Becomes Sound, and it might be their best release yet.
– Angela and Ian