One of Metal’s most innovative bands, despite having only formed in 2007, Tribulation are fast on a path to cult status. Releasing their highly regarded 2015 effort Children of The Night, the band unveiled to the world their hybrid of eighties NWOBHM meets Black Metal and were instantly adored. Announcing their brand new album Down Below for release, the (under) world has been waiting with baited breath. After a recent line up change, Tribulation have returned to be fighting fit and promise kick 2018 off with a bang. Speaking to guitarist and songwriter extraordinaire, Adam Zaars, his tone on the phone today is one of excitement. Poised to release their first record with new drummer Oscar Leander, it might be business as usual for the band but its been quite the experience for the new drummer.
“He’s had a lot to do actually since April. We had a few festival shows lined up for the summer. The first was at the end of may, while helping me write the album, he also had to learn the old songs! Quite a lot of them as well because we had a few smaller festivals that we were headlining so that was the first thing that he did with us and since then he’s been trying to adjust to us and the music of Tribulation and obviously recording the album as well, so he’s had a lot to do haha!”
In an age where technology’s far reaching arm has enabled bands to craft their own musical compositions being thousands of miles apart from each other, there is even more room for experimentation when it comes to the composition of songs. Despite their jam like sound on their recorded works, sections of music are meticulously pawed over by both guitarists.
“We are basically two song writers in Tribulation, its me and the other guitar player Jonathan. Making demos at home, sending them to us to review them and then giving him feedback. What I’ve been doing in the past, I’ve been a little more old school I guess! I just have the songs, write the songs in my head, come to the rehearsal room, show everyone what they’re supposed to play then we play and from there we can do something else if its not finished as an entire band. “
“We ended up not having that much time this time around, luckily Oscar the new drummer has a lot more experience with music software than I do. He helped me make demos, we could actually build the songs. Throughout this process he was with me the entire time. We had Johannes the singer, two people that could give me feedback and help me if I needed help.”
Contrary to what I had believed myself, Tribulation aren’t a band that embody the jam aesthetic. Rather more dilligent, the guitarist believes in the old adage that inspiration can happen anywhere and at any time, like a Black Metal Keith Richards, the guitarist always maintains that you never know when an idea might strike!
“I am very keen on grabbing a hold of things when they happen, if you get an idea that could be of value, if you come up with a melody. Not matter what the situation that you’re currently in is, if you’re on a really loud subway or at the movies, you should take that opportunity to record that idea that you have. There’s kind of a jamming process in that because there is room for spontaneity for sure. Its something that we do a lot. The song isn’t finished until it feels very right so to speak.”
Following the astounding praise that Children of The Night received, Tribulation’s only real competition is themselves. Evolving from their more Death Metal oriented roots, the band have adopted a more Gothic aesthetic. Returning for their sophomore effort, thematically the band are in family territory. Lurking in the shadows of the underworld, its clear to see that the band embody this milieu perfectly as a group. Nevertheless despite their meticulous crafting of songs, the band simply happened upon the theme of The Underworld as their newest release.
“WHEN PEOPLE HEAR THE ALBUM, I WANT PEOPLE TO INVITE THEM ON A JOURNEY”
“Its about anything that has got to do with the underworld, which is in mythology often a place of trials and tribulations. About initiation, taking yourself from one place and elevating yourself into the next step and to do that you have to undergo certain kinds of difficulties. We got to this place independently of one another, we stumbled upon the Underworld with this album. We just noticed that the Underworld was a theme that we were both using this time. The actual title Down Below was a working title to begin with. It became quite apparent that it wasn’t meant for that song and then it jumped onto another song and didn’t work there either. We had difficulty finding a title for the album, something that we’ve never really had before.”
In keeping with the aesthetic of Heavy Metal, Tribulation aren’t ones to push an idea down fans’ throats. Album artwork has played an important role in the creation of this world that Tribulation inhabit, a tableau for each of their pieces exploring their mythos of escapism. Living in the consumerist state that we are in the modern day, Zaars wants the listener to return to the classic sense of what an album meant. The true experience of being transported into another world, even if its just for 45 minutes.
“We had the cover finished before the title and it just fit really well and again with the title, the music, the cover and the lyrics. I would like for anyone to make up their own mind for what it is about. A story for me is not only good but better at least when you get to interpret it on your own. Maybe there is one way to interpret this but maybe there are five ways of interpreting it or even more!”
“Its the same thing with the title actually, its very important for us that its there to create a certain atmosphere. If it wasn’t for that, we would have the imagery that we have, we wouldn’t use the words we use. It would be a completely different vocabulary but its still important I think! When people hear the album, I want people to take a forty five minute break and invite them on a journey and hopefully you’ve had a good ride! I want people to experience it.”
Stemming from the very beginnings of Heavy Metal back in its infancy in 1969, there has always been a fascination with the darker side of the world. Taking their name from the Horror film itself, Black Sabbath were originators of this malevolent atmosphere but what is it that brings the likes of Horror as a genre and Heavy Metal together? Could it be the focus of the macabre, the look to the darker side of humanity or perhaps the true unnerving sense of searching out what it really is that goes bump in the night. A long lost tradition, Tribulation have returned this haunting, ghoulish atmosphere, harking back to the likes of Black Sabbath.
“Good question. Both themes deal with the darker aspects of life in different ways of course! Go all the the way from Slashers to Super Natural Horror and I think you can do that in Metal too. I just think that they go hand in hand. Its very easy to get it wrong, I consider myself a Horror movie fan but I don’t really like that many Horror movies! The same thing with Metal. We are a band that is always balancing on the edge, always pushing things to the limit without trying to go to full on. I think Horror movies kind of end up in that category of things easily turning bad. Maybe thats also why we are doing it. I think we succeeded without being cheesy! I mean we’re singing about vampires! Its very easy for that to get cheesy too. I think it gets cheesy when you’re not giving it the respect that it deserves.”
“IF WE STARTED SOMEWHERE IT WAS TO SOUND LIKE THOSE MOVIES FEEL”
Nevertheless as Zaars points out both genres can influence the other. Drawing from John Carpenter’s Horror classic of Halloween, the demonic ivory teeth of “Subterranea” that open the track take influence directly from the classic Michael Myers inspired score. Proving that Horror might well influence Heavy Metal in a musical sense just as Heavy Metal might influence Horror in its visuals.
“What this album Down Below and the first album we recorded The Horror in 2007 have in common is this spookiness I think. Which is inspired by Horror movie soundtracks, especially Italian movies but also John Carpenter, Halloween.”
“We’ve always been inspired by a lot of different things but very much so Heavy Metal from the eighties, Iron Maiden in particular but also Ozzy Osbourne and a lot of NWOBHM. Traitor’s Gate, Virtue, Cloven Hoof bands like that but also particularly eighties sounding stuff. You were talking about “Subterranea” and that also has some quite distinctive eighties elements to it.”
Digging further it begs the question of what kind of movies influence this terrifying sound. As the conversation develops its clear that Zaars is not only an avid music fan but a true Horror buff. Citing two versions of the same Dracula, each focusing on different aspects of the classic Horror tale, it brings home this notion of interpretation, that there might be an underlying theme but the true mastery lies in both the director and fans interpretation of the piece. A formula the guitarist employs when looking at his own musical creations.
A COMING TOGETHER OF ART
“Nosferatu would be the first one I think, I really enjoy both Nosferatu movies. There is one from 1922 in German, extremely spooky in the right way. I love the take on the Dracula story because it is Bram Stoker’s Dracula but its turned into something a lot more filthy and creepy. Its in a different realm, its not the aristocratic gentleman anymore. I like Dracula too but I think with Nosferatu both 1922 and 1979 both succeeded in doing this. They’ve been a big part of Tribulation. If we started somewhere it was to sound like those movies feel.”
“I do like the classics though, The Omen, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby but also Francis Ford Coppola’s on Bram Stoker’s Dracula as well. I like Horror movies in so many different ways. I’m so interested in both Horror and B-Movies. I can watch movies that I don’t like and still get something out of it. Its such a big world and you can revisit all sorts of films and you see them from a different perspective. Maybe you saw a movie when you were 18, its completely different thing to see that movie when you’re 30 and I’m sure its completely different thing to watch it when you are 50 too you know?”
As with some of the best inventions, the organic growth or the arrival of disruptors can give birth to ideas that perhaps people would have never had. Believing that the album had a distinct “wooden” feel it to it, the band began their metaphorical search of artwork. Shying away from the film still for the artwork behind Children of The Night, instead Tribulation opted for an altogether different image on Down Below.
“We try to speak in images and colours since music is so ethereal as it is so we wanted to end up in say a haunted mansion thats made out of wood actually, quite specific. Thats a little bit outside of a big city, close to nature. We didn’t actually end up there, we kind of let the music and anything take the twists and turns and then try and steer it in the right direction. We went from something wooden to something made out of stone. Thats just what we felt like when the songs were done. We felt the stone for some reason, for me it kind of felt like my idea of 19th century Paris.”
“Thats where the city enters, we have this creature on the album cover. We not really sure what it is either, its supposed to convey a feeling rather than something specific. It could be a living thing, thats got a threatening aura to the city below, which is Stockholm by the way! The album is mostly written here and we’ve lived here for almost ten years now so it just felt like a natural thing. This creature, the idea was that its actually made out of stone, a grotesque if you will. I do a lot of graphic design, I made a sketch out of this, then we have Jonathan our guitar player who actually realises the ideas. He actually did this. We had the cover before we had the title and it just fit very well when it all came together.”
Combining all different components of the arts, Tribulation look to more than just the music when making a record. Conjuring up this atmosphere of what goes bump in the night, those stalking eyes in the dark, what really made that sound in the void, the band have taken on the ideas of the creatures of the night to truly embody musical Horror. Set to release their brand new album in January this year, 2018 will hold nothing but praise for this pioneering band, one that if their trajectory continues could well and truly become the voice of Horror.