Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tribulation - The Formulas Of Death

For anyone who heard Tribulation's The Horror back in 2009 I'm sure The Formulas Of Death was a hype piece. The Horror was brutally refreshing coming from the revival scene. It was crammed with stunning, nigh-perfect riff progressions at a breakneck pace, all backed with plenty of hooks and a solid production.

The Formulas Of Death is a different beast, and I can only commend Tribulation's willingness to experiment with such a successful formula (intended puns are the best puns). Perhaps Tribulation realized that the revival movement was full of enough knuckle-dragging apes and that there was nothing new they could add without becoming redundant and falling prey to fans' fleeting memories. Whatever the case, they made the right decision with their newest release.

Progressive music is a mixed bag of brilliant ideas and haphazard, fruity garbage that I wouldn't deign to listen to. Progressive elements are generally a good thing as they can add variety and enhance the dynamic of many songs. They can be overbearing and obnoxiously obvious in the case with popular progressive acts like Opeth on their later material, or far more subtle and nuanced in the case of a band like Anata. The Formulas Of Death falls under the latter category, and progressive is the last thing anyone would associate with the revival movement. There's loads of atmospheric interludes, guitar effects, eastern scale progressions, dissonant arpeggiated chords, and free-range breaks to the typical Swedish sound. For example the middle of "Suspiria" is slow, backed by a two-beat and flanged harmonics before falling into a bass groove sprinkled with dissonant muted notes. Eventually the track phases (quite literally) back into reality before phasing out again to explore a few more areas of the aural plane.

Each track on The Formulas Of Death has elements which set it firmly apart from whatever The Horror was doing. While this might be a disappointment to some, the music is equally compelling and in many aspects better. I love the subtle displays of musicianship throughout the album. Solos are (obviously) technical and almost feel improvised, and other times the effects dominate the sound of them to the point that the notes are almost unrecognizable. In the end they always fall back into a traditional sounding mold which keeps them entertaining. "Through The Velvet Black "is a solid example of this. Jakob Ljungberg's rhythm work is highly varied and in the middle of a riff progression he'll switch beats, either increasing the speed of the kicks or adding cymbal embellishments where necessary. Every member of the band does their part to create a refreshingly experimental-lite, death metal album.

There aren't any truly standout tracks on this album either. There are no headbangable crusty death metal d-beaters or anything like that. I guess "Wanderer In The Outer Darkness" might be the most approachable from that mindset, but even with how direct it is, the track is anything but stereotypical. With an underlying atmosphere evoking imagery of a wandering trek through the desert, swampy marshlands, or foggy moors, The Formulas Of Death is a very visual album. The production and heavy use of effects add to this feel, giving each track its own personality like the listener is traversing different aspects of a deranged psyche. Their use also keeps the album's variation and my attention at a high. This makes The Formulas Of Death memorable even after quite a few listens.

It might be a bit of a risky move, but I think Tribulation have really caught onto something with The Formulas Of Death. The seamless merging of progressive elements, dynamic songwriting, and Swedish-tinged death metal is something that isn't all that common. They execute it damn well.

8.75 out of 10

1. Vagina Dentata
2. Wanderer In The Outer Darkness
3. Spectres
4. לילה
5. Suspiria
6. Through The Velvet Black
7. Rånda
8. When The Sky Is Black With Devils
9. Spell
10. Ultra Silvam
11. Apparitions

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