You've just got to love overzealous press blurb. Allegedly, the new full-length studio offering from Sweden's Tribulation "isn’t just Album of the Year material, it’s the type of effort that will be remembered for decades." Priming listening expectations in this way can be counter-productive. I expected perfection. Something so utterly astounding that I would immediately be declaring this an indubitable 10/10 masterwork. Alas, it's not so. BUT, it is a very good, solid album, and a step above the Swedes' previous full-length work, 'The Children of the Night'.
Compositionally maturer than its predecessor, 'Down Below' is, effectively, more of the same, but delivered with a more refined sense of songwriting astuteness. It's almost as if they've given their melodies and general creativity a little more breathing space to develop and flourish within each track. There are some great compositional skills on display here, and everything's delivered with the same blend of influences that characterised their 2015 effort. Cue a fusion of elements discernible as being inspired by Dissection, Iron Maiden, Misfits and Type O Negative. Johannes Andersson's vocals, once again, are very Jon Nödtveidt in their general delivery and sound. The overall vibe of the music is also reminiscent of early Agathodaimon.
Yet, as with 'The Children of the Night', Tribulation's blend of retro elements is an original one. This is helped along by the horror movie soundtracks that also remain a source of inspiration - overtly so on the intros to 'Subterranea', 'The World' and 'Cries from the Underworld' (the latter's ever so Carpenter-esque), and the instrumental piece, 'Purgatorio', and more subtly referenced elsewhere. But, while this Stockholm-based metal crew have certainly established their own sound within the scene, it's one that provides a nostalgic feeling of metal's past. There's no modern polish and sheen to be found here, either in the production (which is great on its own terms... a nicely organic sound), or succumbing to any kind of popular metal trend.
Another winner from Tribulation, 'Down Below' has dark, pervasive atmospheres; many melancholic moments; and a few fleeting flashes of sonic optimism; and all topped off with some Dissection-esque growls. Not "Album of the Year" material for me, but certainly a very strong one.
Review by Mark Holmes
26th January 2018
1) The Lament
3) Lady Death
6) Cries from the Underworld
8) The World
9) Here Be Dragons
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Compositionally maturer than its predecessor, 'Down Below' is, effectively, more of the same, but delivered with a more refined sense of songwriting astuteness."