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And the long night comes with grace - 90%

autothrall, February 1st, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Century Media Records (EU)

Tribulation has been one of the few bands out there lately which can make such huge tectonic shifts in style between albums and still pique my interest, exploring every continent on Planet Death from the kinetic thrashing Swedish death/thrashing intensity of The Horror, through the psychedelic augmentations of The Formulas of Death, and then subsequently into a melancholic style of Gothic-tinted heavy growl metal which seems a lot more laid back yet no less effective than the earlier incarnations. This is why Down Below strikes me as an anomaly, because for the first time the Swedes seemed to have staked their claim on a terrain and hung around for awhile. It wouldn't be a stretch to call this Children of the Night Part Deux; there are some minor variations in production and songwriting, as this seems a bit louder, mildly more energetic and straight to the face, but it does lack some of that surprise factor you might have experienced when first listening to the two full-lengths before it. Which might be a turn-off, if the style just weren't so attractive in and amidst all my other listening.

The riffing remains simple, sad, and beautiful, owing to its atmospheric adornments as much as any internal nuance. I'm not saying it's entirely predictable the first time through, but the band is relying a lot more on traditional senses of harmony and rhythm chords and not so much the death metal roots. When I listened to its predecessor, and when I also hear this, I feel like I'm hearing what shape a 'melodeath' sound might have taken if the amplification technology and rock music existed back in the Victorian era. The tunes all evoke cult horror imagery, and are unquestionably inspired by both the black & white cinema of those early Hammer and Universal flicks, or the Gothic literature of writers like Poe, Shelly, Stoker and Radcliffe. I realize this creates a strange anachronism, and even more so when Johannes Andersson's nihilistic gutturals stretch out over the gloomier but warmer rhythm guitar passages, but it's just one of those melodic death sounds that feels instantly distinct when compared to the more frantic, showy Scandinavian bands that have dominated that style for well over a decade. In fact, I could draw parallels between this album and Sentenced's underrated Amok in 1995, which also had a moody, Romantic heavy metal foundation contrasted by the grueling and charismatic growls of Taneli Jarva. Or maybe even their countrymen Raise Hell on the 2nd and 3rd albums, where they'd weave in similar horror-inspired melodies; only this is far less brash and not at all thrashy.

At any rate, Down Below is extremely catchy, with a lot of focus on leads and melodies that glaze its moderate rock beats like synth lines from classic horror films. Voluminous percussion. Grand, grating growls that, while monotonous, are strangely subduing. Well-developed bridges, breaks in the rain, exhalations across the dark smokestacks or gargoyle-laden skylines. Solos that are never overly indulgent, but fit the moods of their individual tracks and overall consistency of the album just fine. Even the few moments where this record devolves into sheer ambiance are wonderful. I would say that it does often seem a little too samey in its riffing structures and pacing, perhaps even more than Children of the Night, but that's only a problem so long as I don't enjoy what I'm experiencing, and for me Down Below and their last albums are emblematic of extravagant, ghoulish productions that I really enjoy sitting down to watch, or read. What a fucking great band this is, whether they stick around in this same sphere or once again forge ahead into the unknown, I'm on board, shivering in the full moon, checking out the windows for any black wings that might fly past.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com