Sweden’s Tribulation is a curious case in the current metal scene. Unlike, say, a Behemoth who honed their initial Darkthrone or Mayhem based black metal sound into a heavier, more punishing prog death engine over the years, Tribulation started with an amazing slab of blackened At The Gates worship (not unlike what The Haunted or The Black Dahlia Murder were up to at the time) in their debut LP The Horror and have since folded in elements of more classic death, doom and psychedelia into what I like to call (and they seemed to agree with when I interviewed them) an incredibly satisfying “metal lasagna”.
The boys from Arvika have hit Philly several times over the past year or so, supporting the likes of the aforementioned Behemoth and likeminded blackened genre benders Deafheaven, but Thursday at The Foundry was the first time we’d have the pleasure of seeing them deliver a longer, more robust headlining set, bringing fellow personal favorites of ours Youth Code along for the ride.
Up in coming local blackened death outfit Horrendous opened the show in fine form, sounding like a riffier, thrasher, more retro minded version of Goatwhore. Consider us impressed.
If you follow us at all you know how we feel about Youth Code, having been blown away by their performance in this very venue just a few short months ago. The LA industrial duo never fail to make an impression and it didn’t take long for them to win over the initially skeptical seeming metal audience here, Sara Taylor’s apocalyptic rasp and spazz-tastic stage presence impossible to argue against.
After the set electronic multi-instrumentalist Ryan George thanked the crowd for giving them a chance, an “industrial” artist playing a “metal” show, and how it never seems odd to him that they play with so many metal bands because, to him, the genres have been so intertwined over the years. We’ll second that, genre demarcation be damned, YC are more metal that 90% of the horn throwing, denim vested posers we have to sit through in this line of work, and they can play wherever the fuck they want.
As the intro to “Strange Gateways Beckon” began to rise out of the PA, the excitement and anticipation in the air was deservedly palpable. An intimate setting like The Foundry is the perfect setting for a band who’s sound and vision hinge so greatly on the theatrical and operatic and Tribulation utilized it to the fullest extent, presenting a set that hit all the right beats throughout their three very diverse LPs and allowed each member’s particular and unique skills to coalesce into the whole that makes the band such a refreshing alternative to your garden variety leather and chains black metallers.
Of particular note, as always, it guitarist Jonathan Hulten, who continues to stalk the stage like demon possessed bullfighter despite a recent broken rib, his inspired and deft playing never suffering due to the snake like contortions he manipulates his body into. Which is to take nothing away from his harmonically dissonant counterpart Adam Zaars, or the charred bellow and confident bass noodling of Johannes Andersson. Drummer Jakob Ljungberg may have impressed the most though, an absolute freight train behind the kit, surprisingly even on relentless thrasher “Seduced By The Smell Of Rotten Flesh” from prior to his joining the band and their adoption of their current, more deliberate style.
In addition to “Seduced…” the band played recent LP “The Children of the Night” nearly in full (“Melancholia” being a definite highlight) before closing with “The Formulas of Death” standout “When The Sky Is Black With Devils”. Andersson himself mentioned from the stage that he was happy to bring Philly a longer set this time out, and as a longtime fan of the Tribulation’s sonically progressive and disparate output I don’t think I could’ve picked a better one myself.
Photos by Megan Hawkey, Words by Kevin Hawkey