The Formulas of Death
Among all the old school Swedish death metal bands that have popped up over the years, none managed to capture my attention as much as Repugnant and their (only) full length album, Epitome of Darkness. So when Tribulation‘s debut, The Horror first appeared under Pulverised Records a couple of years back it soon became one of my favourite albums, with that thrashy edge that the band has incorporated into their brand of Swedish death metal. With the band now calling Invictus Productions (another one of my favourite labels) their new home, news of their new album The Formulas of Death certainly got me excited.
But fans of The Horror would quickly notice a few differences that the band has brought about this time with The Formulas of Death, first being the length of the album, running for more than 1 hour, more than double the length of their debut. Obviously this hints towards an evolution in the band’s musical direction, and early previews (and leaks) of the album certainly proved to be so, with even 2 songs that last for more than 10 minutes. Honestly, the shift in the style of album artwork should be obvious enough. The question that remains, is whether the band can manage to retain the attention of those that they have captivated with their old sound.
As soon as the album begins one realises that the change in musical direction is pretty drastic indeed. Album opener Vagina Dentata brings about quite a psychedelic feel, and one is quickly brought back to rock of the 60s and 70s. One might expect the band to quickly go back to their usual style of reckless death/thrash metal, but instead the band takes their time to slowly build up the tension in the air, and with the progression of the songs (on the intro, and later in the album), one can’t help to bring about comparisons to thrash bands such as Vektor. Johannes’ vocals even sounds like a cross between Vektor‘s David and Repugnant‘s Mary Goore.
One might think that the band has mellowed down, but where the aggression of the band has indeed toned down, the band makes up for it with their marked maturation of their songwriting. As the album progresses one quickly notices that the band has put in much thought in their songwriting, with the wide variety of influences that the band has put into The Formulas of Death. Certainly, the foundations of The Formulas of Death still remain death metal, and the Swedish stylistics are still present, with the haunting lead guitars that remind one of Entombed and Repugnant. But rather than one straightforward death/thrash fest the band often alternates between different styles, sometimes within a single track like on Wanderer in the Outer Darkness, and of course, on the longer tracks Suspiria and Apparitions. The interlude לילה is a piano instrumental track, displaying a slight neoclassical touch in their influences as well. And of course, there are the usual heavy metal moments, keeping things old school at the same time. The band has even thrown in some tribal/ethnic stylistics on the album for good measure, adding to the uniqueness of this release.
Of course, things still remain equally uneasy, the way the band has always intended their music to be. For instance, while Suspiria might be a track that is uncharacteristically slow and long for a Tribulation track, the band manages to keep things such that the tension in the atmosphere remains high.
Unfortunately, as one might have already suspected, The Formulas of Death is marks an extremely drastic shift in the musical direction of Tribulation. While a pretty good album in itself that grows on one after a couple of listens, fans expecting a second The Horror or another The Epitome of Darkness, be prepared to be disappointed.