Tribulation – When The Gloom Becomes Sound (Century Media)

2021 sees Tribulation at a crossroads.

In the run-up to When The Gloom Becomes Sound’s release, guitarist Jonathan Hultén quit the quartet.

The enigmatic Swede had given Tribulation much of their creative lifeblood, his sensuous Gothic visions playing a key part in the band’s evolution from death metal upstarts to vampiric overlords.

Hultén’s move hasn’t finished off Tribulation. Joseph Tholl – formerly of Enforcer – has stepped in to replace him.

But the timing of Hultén’s departure wasn’t exactly ideal.

And neither is the prospect, faced by Johannes Andersson, Adam Zaars and Oscar Leander of pushing a record largely composed by a former member.

Yet Tribulation can at least usher in this new era with some career-best material.  

When The Gloom Becomes Sound is altogether a stronger effort than its predecessor, 2018’s Down Below.

It’s the obvious next stage in Tribulation’s sonic and stylistic metamorphosis.

And the album’s spectral melodies and underworld auras certainly won’t come as any surprise to long-time devotees.

But listen to the record’s opening trio of pitch-black gems, and you’ll hear a band with the scent of blood in their nostrils… and a real hunger to reach metal’s top table.

Opener In Remembrance swings from ghostly orchestration to a dramatic post punk pulse… and bears the kind of chorus Andrew Eldritch would be proud of.  Hour Of The Wolf weaves intricate riffery around a surprisingly simple song structure, to stunning effect. The jaw-dropping Leviathans rises like a titan from the seabed, heralding a lightning storm of spectacular songcraft.

These songs will burn themselves into your memory.

They’re followed by Dirge Of A Dying Soul, a ghostly hymn draped in melancholy which drops the pace considerably – and perhaps takes too much time to digest.

But anyone craving the metallic urgency of Tribulation’s previous work will be swiftly rewarded by Daughter Of The Dijnn, Elementals and the blazing, Mercyful Fate-shaped Funeral Pyre.

As the band’s fifth studio album reaches its conclusion, the closing strains of The Wilderness offer a suitably magisterial send off for Hultén. Bathed in moonlight, the song glistens with Tribulation’s supreme talent and reaches deep into the listener’s soul.

Indeed, When The Gloom Becomes Sound is much more than a five star, goth-tinged heavy metal album. It’s the spellbinding work of a unique act… a band who’ve grown in stature ever since they released The Horror on an unsuspecting world.

Yes, we’ll have to wait a while to see what Hultén’s departure – and Tholl’s integration – means for Tribulation.

But for now, the children of the night can revel in this extraordinary opus.