Usually you can tell right away when you’re hearing a record that’s particularly special, one you’ll be discussing toward the end of the year when compiling best-of lists. It’s a piece of work that reaches out and grabs you and refuses to release its grip.
But that isn’t always the case. Take for example “The Formulas of Death,” the second record from Swedish death metal unit Tribulation. First time through this record it sounded really good, but it didn’t really sink in as something that deserved extra special attention. But the more I played the thing, the more it made its impact and started to infect me. It wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill new death metal band trying to make its mark in a scene that’s already flooded with music. Instead, it was the sign of a group that wanted to expand its thinking, take things further than they had on their debut, and make something that would stand out among the pack. They managed to do just that with this 11-track, 75-minute effort that refuses to leave my ears.
The band formed nearly a decade ago, and they put out an EP and a demo before offering up their 2009 debut “The Horror,” an album that held promise for the band but certainly didn’t seem like an indication that greatness was ahead. Over the time since their first album landed, they’ve simply become a much better band. They have added more black metal influences to their sound, which has added levels of atmosphere and melody to their music, and they just sound like a more seasoned collection of musicians who are better are pulling off their big ideas. The songwriting and creativity is stronger, and that’s made a major difference.
The lineup is pretty much the same as who’s been in the band from the start, including bassist/vocalist Johannes Andersson (also of Sars, Stench), and guitarists Adam Zaars (Sars, Repugnant, that also features an evil pope-like guy) and Jonathan Hulten (Stench). Joining them is new drummer Jakob Ljungberg, who also plays in Sars, and combined they make for a formidable unit that’s capable of creating great things like this stunning second record that you’re bound to hear a lot about as this year progresses.
Opening with the weird, whirry intro “Vagina Dentata,” they then blast into “Wanderer in the Outer Darkness,” a seven-minute-plus track that is full of creative fury and even progressive metal dashes, and later on in the track, it gets trippy and psychedelic. “Spectres” is vicious and forceful, remaining in a rage and in your face during its running time and giving you no opportunity to back away or gain your own ground. An untitled interlude follows, filled with drizzling piano and watery guitar, and then it’s into “Suspiria,” an eerie, chilling track with large section of instrumental exploration, unexpected guitar textures, but also venom and madness, with Andersson howling like his throat is full of hornets.
“Through the Velvet Black” simmers as it starts, with drums building into a frenzy, an explosion on the cusp of fully enveloping you. The tricky guitars move and stab, the vocals are threatening and purposeful, and the soloing inspired and easy to get lost in. It’s a thrashier song, with some pockets that get particularly fiery, but for the most part it’s channeled very scientifically. “Randa” follows, and its swirling guitars and unique melodies make it one of the standout tracks on the record. It feels sickening and aggressive, and it never lets up in intensity.” When the Sky Is Black With Devils” starts like it’s going to pull things back, but then the song erupts, and it’s a savage journey into the mouth of hell. “Spell” starts with a fast guitar line, drums meeting up with it to help with the demolition, and vocals that are intent to maim and wreck. “Ultra Silvam” takes things back into space again, with weird, starry melodies and intent to set a mood for the blistering finale, the 13:17-long “Apparitions,” where the band leaves some of their best material for last. You get a nice collection of sounds you heard on the first 10 songs, from death-like hammering, black metal-style majesty and glory, meaty thrash sections that’ll get your blood and fists pumping, and vocals delivered with a raspy violence that keeps you alert and aware over the entire song’s running time. It’s a wonderfully chaotic finish to a great, eye-opening record.
Hopefully Tribulation continue this remarkable improvement and work to become even better songwriters. It’s not enough to just add influences from metal’s wide spectrum and hope that’ll be enough to make a compelling record, but I think these guys know that as they prove that over and over on this album. “The Formulas of Death” is one of the year’s most explosive albums and a real pleasant surprise. What’s even more exciting is Tribulation are only at the beginning of their story, and they have plenty more chapters to fill in from here.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.tribulation.se/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.theajnaoffensive.com/collections/ajna
For more on the label, go here: http://www.theajnaoffensive.com/
And here: http://invictusproductions.net/