From what sounds to be particularly elegantly furnished corner of Hell (AKA Sweden), progressive masters of blackened psychedelia Tribulation return. Further evolving from their thrash-tastic origins on 2009 debut “The Horror”, the band’s baroque transformation into ostentatious arena death living legends continues apace on their recently released 4th LP “Down Below”, with a swelling and swirling, seemingly meticulously constructed and cohesive musical narrative that rivals the best of classic concept records. A doom laden, Lovecraftian apocalypse never sounded so good.
The journey “Down Below” is one fraught with peril. “The Lament” is a headbang worthy rocker as brutal as it is beautiful and melancholy. Stalwart frontman Johannes Andersson’s traditional black metal vocal is almost a crusty, guttural comfort against the labyrinthine mystery of the band’s musicianship, spearheaded by ethereal guitar virtuoso (and my favorite real life anime character this side of Shinsuke Nakamura) Jonathan Hulten. Hulten takes his epic shredding to almost Jake E. Lee levels on “Nightbound”, while “Lady Death” returns to the shadows, from chilling ambiance to stratospheric riffing of galactic proportions.
“Subterranea” is a driving, daresay funky jam, followed by instrumental earworm as creepy as it is catchy “Purgatorio”. “Cries from the Underworld” slinks with a synth inflected, Goblin inspired cock rock bravado. “Lacrimosa” storms in with a speed picking stomp, “The World” has a haunting new wave sensibility, almost Human League-esque, with an echoed, chanting vocal, and grand finale “Here Be Dragons” is a rollicking multi part mini rock opera in and of itself.
“Down Below” is startlingly accomplished and polished work, a vinyl time capsule from a charred black stadium rock 70’s hellscape that never was. Lush, warm production befitting the record’s sonic verisimilitude and gothic and foreboding atmosphere paint a picture of a band constantly advancing their perfect alchemy of scathing blackened death metal and soaring, spacey psychedelic prog rock. The ride may be as unnerving as it is uncertain but I’m extremely happy to be along for it.