Scandinavia has been breeding a strange brew of Death Metal lately. Well, that’s not entirely true. The Scandinavian scene has always been experimental and strange, to say the least, while at the same time defining what it means to be old school in the last past few decades. Though I don’t think anyone anticipated that within five years since the “New Wave of Old School Death Metal” burst out onto the world, bands at the forefront would be releasing albums some would legitimately question as being Death Metal at all.
Last year was a boom in the evolution of the scene’s youngbloods who were not satisfied with paying tribute to their heroes, but rather, forging their own unique paths. Norway’s Execration delivered the Spellemanprisen, or Norwegian Grammy, award-winning Morbid Dimensions, while Morbius Chron spewed forth the critically praised Sweven (Stereogum calling it the 6th best album of 2014). To differing degrees, both ran with the black and death metal influences of the early 90’s, but energized them with weirdly atmospheric, progressive and psychedelic influences. This, at first thought, is nothing new for the underground diehard to hear. In both cases, the resultant sound was something beyond merely mixing Autopsy and Voivod riffs with King Crimson or Pink Floyd soundscapes. Whether through hermit isolation or interstellar gamma radiation, the musical creature now before us hardly resembles what should be its nearest evolutionary relatives. That, or these guys have been dumpster diving through old vinyl more obscure than the typical metalhead has been exposed to. So here too on this strange new plane of existence do we find Tribulation’s latest album, The Children Of The Night.
The band’s 2013 release, The Formulas of Death, was already a strong departure from their debut’s pungent underground sound to a more out of this world vision. Yet, further refinement has shed the lingering skin of old, and songs have been trimmed down from the typical Prog-Rock ten minute plus marathons. This time nothing gets well beyond the seven minute mark. Musically, the band relies on even fewer power chord riffs than ever before to drive the song forward.
However, three songs in particular still retain a bit more of a power chord riff focus and, unsurprisingly, all three are likely to be singles. In The Dreams Of The Dead, The Motherhood Of God and Holy Libations all play along the more traditional path of Dissection doing their damnedest Iron Maiden and Angel Witch worship. Strong riffs wrapped up in elegant and hooky leads, ultimately culminating in spellbinding solos. Each with it’s own unique flair, like goth rock in The Motherhood of God à la The Cure, and heavy references to Swedish folk music in Holy Libations.
The rest of the album shows far more experimentation and further musical departure from not only Death Metal but also Heavy Metal in general. Certainly if the band in the future ever ditches their blackened death growls, everyone will be hard pressed to call them Death Metal. Another common Death Metal trait, the blast beat, while used selectively in the last album, are absolutely absent here. Instead they’re replaced with percussion more suited toward atmosphere and sublime horror than pulverization. An eastern influence continues from their last album with prominent use of the Tambura, an instrument many have confused with the sitar. The music is progressive, but not what might first come to audiences’ minds, whether Dream Theater at their worst or even Death at their best. Rather, the album is a varied mix of avant-garde influences drudged out of the past from The Doors, Popol Vuh, Goth rock ambience and Giallo soundtracks.
Organ, moog synth and classic piano shape prominent melodies throughout much of the album. The song Winds, at times, is reminiscent of recent Swedish superstars Ghost, though certainly a bit less carnival in flavor. A pleasing fact is the bass isn’t buried in the mix; it dances with the drums and even leads the song at times.
The instrumental Själaflykt shows the clearest influence from former tour mates and fellow Swedes Watain, with quite a few similarities to their experiments in The Wild Hunt. Organ, moog synth, piano and clean/distorted guitar weave and float into a grand epic soundtrack for an elegant danse macabre. Dark film scores certainly are the mood the band is reaching for like on Strains of Horror, which would fit right in with a classic Dario Argento movie, if the Italian maestros Goblin hadn’t already been available. Not far behind on the album, or in atmosphere, is the short instrumental Cauda Pavonis. It feels like a perfect cooling down for the album, but works well enough as a transition track with the fun inclusion of a haunting Theremin melody.
Music From The Other finishes with a long slow march entwined by beautiful and melancholic melodies. The song continually builds an emotional tension until the crashing crescendo brings it all to a triumphant end. For an album that’s been so cinematic one could easily imagine this song as the moment the protagonist defiantly meets their death. Cut to Black. Fin. Roll Credits. Applause and cheers. Bravo, bravo.
1. Strange Gateways Beckon
3. In The Dreams Of The Dead
6. The Motherhood Of God
7. Strains Of Horror
8. Holy Libations
9. Cauda Pavonis
10. Music From The Other
Genre: Progressive Metal/Death Metal
Record Label: Century Media Records
Playing Time: 56:27
Johannes Andersson – Bass, Vocals
Adam Zaars – Guitars
Jonathan Hultén – Guitars
Jakob Ljungberg – Drums