Released: 2009, Pulverised Records
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Has Swedish death metal become a cliché? Should a metal listener expect only to hear copies and sterile permutations on the familiar themes of bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Amon Amarth, and Opeth? Is there anything Scandinavian worth listening to anymore that hasn’t been beaten into the ground? I can’t answer a single one of those questions – but I do know is that the debut album of Sweden’s thrashy death metal act Tribulation is an absolute scorcher that every metalhead worth his salt needs to buy.
THE HORROR sounds little like any the Swedish “trademark” previously mentioned, and they don’t seem to care a lick. Tribulation is mostly interested in launching one penetratingly sharp riff after another atop of thrashy double bass and grinding blastbeats. Like thrash metal is supposed to be, this is pretty fast stuff, but the band doesn’t try to push speed limits like common underground black metal acts feel boringly compelled to do. No, Tribulation is a much better band than the average group of long-haired, Northern alcoholics.
Beginning on sixteen seconds of a brief, but marvelously creepy piano intro, THE HORROR gets off to a rollicking start with the mesmerizing “Crypt of Thanatophila.” Judging by the song titles, it is easy to assume that vocalist J. Andersson enjoys screaming about zombies and other standard-bearing metal lyrical subjects – but there’s no such thing as too many metal albums featuring the walking dead. Each new song unleashes an impressive host of necrotic, pulverizing riffs that inspire neck-breaking headbanging.
Killer riffs aside, Tribulation knows how to write a compellingly dark song with haunting dynamics (the touches of piano found at some transitions are particularly effective,) some unsettlingly mellow clean passages, and just enough theatricality to set them apart from less interesting bands – take particular note of the borderline-catchy chorus on “The Vampyre” and the technical leanings of “Graveyard Ghouls”. The violently shifting riffs and progressively evil grooves on “Seduced by the Smell of Rotten Flesh” take THE HORROR into stratospheric levels of intensity that most death metal bands can’t touch. I can’t stress enough how much solid, intelligent songwriting makes an album exponentially more awesome, and Tribulation have taken that to heart.
Technically speaking, vocalist J. Andersson has a solid death/black shriek reminiscent of early Alexi Laiho, but his manic delivery sets his voice apart (and thankfully he chooses not to double track his vocals – he’s vicious enough not to need it!) However its guitarists J. Hulten and A. Zaars that are truly responsible for the skullshattering musical impact of THE HORROR – their riffs and occasionally dueling guitar solos make up the majority of the metal muscle found within.
I cannot recommend Tribulation’s THE HORROR enough to anyone who thought Scandinavian metal was dead. Or to anyone who likes metal. Or to anyone who thinks they can handle the superbly crafted metal butchery found in this monstrously ruthless debut CD from a band that deserves to be heard on a wider level.