Where Gloom Becomes Sound creeps in like a ghost in the hall. “In Remembrance” sets the tone for Tribulation’s most gothic record to date. It’s a sparse experience, set to the tune of Johannes Andersson’s unforgettable black metal rasp. Lo-fi production over deceptively simple riffs makes for an album that sounds like Celtic Frost one minute and Joy Division the next.
Tribulation certainly are unique. Since 2015’s Children of the Night, they’ve carved out a spot for themselves in the global scene, hard enough for the diehards but too extreme for casual fans. In fact, when one takes away the vocals from “Daughter of the Djinn” it would fit in on any NWOBHM rotation. It speaks to the band’s ability that they can make us reference three decades of music in just two songs.
Listeners looking for the energy of earlier records should like “Funeral Pyre”, an unrelenting black/thrash number with a guitar that resembles a musical saw. But the majority of Where Gloom Becomes Sound is slower and more doom-like than Tribulation have been in the past. “Dirge of a Dying Soul” is appropriately named. Andersson sounds like a satanic necromancer over heavy organ and lyrics straight from the gothic handbook. It’s almost camp, but Tribulation are good enough songwriters that things never feel less than menacing. On the epic finale “The Wilderness,” they explode in a rush of twin guitar solos worthy of Iron Maiden. It’s a song any metal fan can get behind, a timeless horns-in-the-air moment.
This is also a very Swedish sounding record. The influence of Ghost, Dark Tranquility, Watain, and Draconian are all over the place. But Tribulation never fail to remain themselves. They’re one of those bands you can instantly recognize, which already puts them head and shoulders above most others. “Leviathans” is the best example, a song that builds, falls, and cascades like the waters of a northern sea.
Production is where the gothic feel of any album comes from. Tribulation enlisted Tom Dalgety to mix Where Gloom Becomes Sound. Dalgety really is one of the best producers in the game right now. This is the man that is responsible for Royal Blood’s debut, Rammstein’s reunion, brilliant underground gems from Demob Happy and Dinosaur Pile-Up as well as Ghost’s Prequelle. He’s dimmed some of Tribulation’s fire on this one, giving the drums an empty, hollow effect. It works great, especially when the band is allowed to expand on their neoclassical elements without being drowned out by distortion.
If there is one suggestion, it’s that it is time to put the “gothic piano interlude” to rest. There’s nothing wrong with “Lethe,” except that it would have served better as an outro. Jammed between “Dirge for a Dying Soul” and “Daughter of the Djinn,” it just kills the momentum. Every gothic metal band from Cradle of Filth to Paradise Lost has tried one of these, and they are starting to become almost interchangeable. It’s not like Tribulation’s keyboardist is bad. The start of “In Remembrance” proves that.
What makes Tribulation good is that they don’t seem to be playing to impress anyone. They don’t chase trends. Instead, they are playing exactly what they want, regardless of what’s popular at the moment or what they’ve done in the past. “Hour of the Wolf” could be popular four decades from now. Where Gloom Becomes Sound is one of Tribulation’s best albums and a classic in the making for goths worldwide.