Tribulation - Formulas of Death
Invictus Productions
Death metal
11 songs (01:15:48)
Release year: 2013
Official Website, Invictus Productions
Reviewed by Charles
Album of the month
In aulden tymes (2009), I covered Tribulation’s first album, The Horror, for this site. In hindsight, a pretty crap review: badly written, all the wrong comparisons drawn, and so forth. Still, I got the overall judgement right because the band’s debut is, indeed, probably one of the best “Swedeath” debuts of the last few years, brimming with pace and savagery. The good news- or, if you prefer everything to remain perpetually the same, the bad news- is that the four year intervening period has seen the band change substantially. The first clue that this is the case is the cover. The font, layout, and the image, all seem strikingly reminiscent of Black Widow’s classic Sacrifice; a radically different vibe to the purist death metal aesthetic of The Horror. The second clue is the song lengths, which have grown, to say the least.

Does that mean that Tribulation’s music has transmogrified into meandering occult-obsessed prog-folk? A sort of musical reinterpretation of Blood on Satan’s Claw? Actually, no, change has not been that fundamental- though, before continuing I want to add that they are still deeply inspired by horror cinema, and they integrate these elements in a more credible way than most. Rather than including a gory cover picture or bunch of samples, I (at least I think so) caught various little musical allusions to horror soundtracks, on a sort of “blink and you’ll miss it” basis. Clever sods, is what they are.

Where was I? Yeah, there has been substantial change and it has taken the band’s music in a quite bewitching direction. The Horror’s death metal bite is still there, and indeed is still the centrepiece to the sound, but Tribulation’s approach has been revolutionised in two closely-linked senses. Firstly, the songwriting is far more complex, with most tracks taking on extended and elaborate structures. This is not just evident on the epics like the closer Apparitions. We also have a couple of instrumental numbers which would presumably once have been little atmosphere-builders, but here are fully realised equals in the track listing. And secondly, more importantly in my view, the band has discovered a wonderful knack for dynamics, which had me almost reaching for otherwise inappropriate comparisons with Cynic. They experiment relentlessly with different instrumental textures (I wish more extreme metal bands did this), destabilising the sound, rendering it far less linear than is typically the case with extreme metal.

So there is really a lot to uncover in this record; far more than I can do justice to here, and so you should really listen to it yourself. Despite its complexity it has a strong sense of continuity. The enigmatic sort-of-clean guitar flourishes that open the album become a powerful recurrent motif, resurfacing at various points, sometimes in evocative Eastern-inspired form which reminds me of The End by The Doors (see the two instrumentals, Vagina Dentata and Ultra Silvam), and sometimes in other ways. Suspiria, for example, alternates with great deftness between a great down-tempo death metal groove and passages of atmospheric quiet; the latter given a lovely harmonic ambiguity by the carefree fluttering of the guitar, whose subtlety surpasses much that you might hope to find on an ostensibly more cultured post-rock record. Aside from the guitar lines, other instrumentalists get a chance to experiment as well: I particularly liked the way the drumming morphs into a hi-hat-led quasi-disco feel on Wanderer in the Outer Darkness. None of this should mislead you; the core of Tribulation’s music is blistering death metal, and we can find explosive examples of the art throughout the record. It’s just that they form part of such a complex and well-realised whole.

Oh, and before I finish I should mention Randa, which is my pick for the best metal song of 2013 so far. I won’t describe it, though, you can go hunt it down. The point is, that Formulas of Death is a deeply impressive album, in which every listener will find their own favourite moments. They will continue to uncover new ideas each time it is played.

Killing Songs :
Randa, Suspiria, Wanderer in the Outer Darkness
Charles quoted 94 / 100
Other albums by Tribulation that we have reviewed:
Tribulation - Down Below reviewed by Alex and quoted 78 / 100
Tribulation - Children of the Night reviewed by Charles and quoted 85 / 100
Tribulation - The Horror reviewed by Charles and quoted 85 / 100
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