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Stop, Drop, Death N’ Roll: Tribulation’s The Children of the Night

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To call Tribulation a death metal band, as many have done in the past, seems a bit erroneous at this point. Sure, there are plenty of elements that fit into that box, but this Swedish outfit offers a sound far outside of the restrictions of the genre. Those with refined aural palates and a taste for diversity will likely be open to and entranced by the band’s new album The Children Of The Night, even if it is a noticeable departure from earlier offerings.

As opposed to Tribulation’s last album The Formulas of Death, which was significantly busier and more technical/progressive both in the playing and compositions, The Children Of The Night adopts a more stripped-down, song-focused, death n’ roll approach that creates a distinctive vibe and leans heavily on catchy hooks and a strong sense of melody in the music despite the atonal guttural vocals throughout.

From the symphonic organ/piano intro of opening track “Strange Gateways Beckon” this album announces itself in an eerie yet hopeful manner, and once the song kicks in with an arena-rock attitude it is clear we are in for a banger. Displaying a firm grasp on structured songs, Tribulation reaffirm themselves as a powerful force of composition over ostentatious playing – the theatrics are in the mood, and there is vibe aplenty.

Admittedly the one-dimensional vocal style feels a bit out of place at times against the backdrop of such melodious music, but once you get used to it the songs really do shine through regardless and the dark moody guitar-driven nature of the tunes justifiably takes center stage.

Second song “Melancholia” feels like a middle-of-the-night car chase through a graveyard, with a memorable guitar line leading the way. “In The Dreams Of The Dead” offers a more metallic attack, but the clever choice to keep both the guitars and drums more earthy-sounding tonally/recording-wise gives a prevalent human feeling overall, even if there is a consistent pretense of otherworldly “darkness” in every song.

Ample passages of clean guitar refrains certainly help the more rocking moments come to life; the spacey, deliberate intro of “Winds” does a great job of setting the stage for a bombastic opening riff, subsequent catchy chorus resplendent with guitarmonies – among the best and most memorable hooks on the entire album – and a toe-tapping, synth-driven bridge. All in all, this song is a perfect example of a more diverse Tribulation, one that retains the classic Scandinavian sound while layering other elements in as well.

The music is pretty easy to get into initially, but the pacing of the album starts to feel a bit dragging around the halfway mark – clocking in at over fifty-six minutes in total, the diversity of the songwriting eventually starts to give way to the taxing commitment to the morose sound and furthermore the hooks also fall off a bit in the second half, which doesn’t help either.

Centerpiece instrumental track “Själaflykt” feels a bit superfluous and would probably have been better served as a bonus track or b-side. Subsequent song “The Motherhood Of God” loses the hook-driven onslaught of the album’s first half and also strikes a bit of a filler vibe, despite some great icy 80s-sounding arpeggiated guitar playing.

“Strains of Horror” plays about as close to a spandex rock ballad as you can get with Satan-friendly growling on top of it, and “Holy Libations” opens with a loose, 70s-classic rock intro before opening up into what almost feels like a slightly different version of something we’ve already heard earlier on this very album.
Delicate instrumental interlude “Cauda Pavonis” sounds like something out of Danny Elfman & Tim Burton’s world and provides a nice transition into last song “Music From The Other”, a meandering brooder which unfortunately leaves us on a somewhat lackluster note to end the album.

Although The Children of the Night loses a bit of steam in its second half, the beginning songs are extremely captivating and there is definitely enough here throughout to sustain an enjoyable listen that will leave a few tasty hooks in your brain. The melodic-minded sound would have been elevated to a whole new level with some singing to dance alongside the fanciful guitar work, but focusing on what is rather than what could have been we are treated to a solid death n’ roll album that will satisfy discerning fans, both old and new.

Tribulation’s The Children of the Night comes out April 14 on Century Media. Stream the track “In the Dreams of the Dead” here and pre-order it here.

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