Following up 2015’s divisive, yet critically acclaimed The Children of the Night, Swedish rockers Tribulation return with Down Below. As the Children of the Night album saw the band deviate from the death metal they produced on their first two albums; likewise, Down Below stretches further down that unfamiliar road. It’s an impressive album that pulls on the roots of metal, post-punk, and prog-rock – often with the gravitas of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. If you’re a long time fan that didn’t appreciate the artistic departure the band took with Children of the Night, you might not immediately connect with this album. But, you’re a fool if you don’t give it a chance.
I’m not sure where you draw the line between psychedelic rock and progressive metal, but Down Below makes it a pointless discussion. Indeed, tracks like “Nightbound” and the epic album closer “Here Be Dragons” are reminiscent of those generic labels. But, the band transcends those categories by just being themselves and doing what they want. Most importantly, doing it at a high level of quality. Other songs, like “The Lament” and “Lady Death” lean more towards post-punk/post-hardcore than the majority of their back catalog. On these tracks, the minimal, yet effective drumming of Oscar Leander drive the songs forward and into different directions than what can be heard on their first two albums. The songs on this album are also more complex than their previous output. The opening piano on “Subterranea” sounds like it could be on the soundtrack to a Dario Argento film, where the xylophone arrangements on “Purgatorio” and “The World” feel right at home rather than a self-indulgent experiment. But, it’s the atypical song structures and dynamics heard on “Cries for the Underworld” and “Lacrimosa” that push this album over-the-top. These tracks have great interplay between guitar, drums, and keyboards as they build tension between crescendos.
It’s interesting that Tribulation’s musical trajectory is not unlike their fellow countrymen Opeth. Perhaps it’s a natural progression for bands beginning on the extreme metal end of the spectrum to gradually become more diverse as they grow as musicians and songwriters. Maybe they are exceptions to the rule. But, if you appreciate this kind of growth from an artist, Down Below will be a welcome addition to your collection. Indeed, this is a thinking persons metal album. Before you go off thinking that it’s a complicated listen, rest assured – the songs here are highly listenable. Never indulgent or experimenting for the sake of experimenting, this album is simply nine great songs. It should be expected that this album will further their crossover appeal to a larger audience.
– J. Kevin Lynch
– Watch the video for the single “The Lament” –