Sweden has been a hotbed for fantastic metal for some time now. From their iconic death metal scene, in particular the Gothenburg metal scene, to their fantastic exports in black metal the country has been producing top tier talent for decades now. So to stand out from the rather formidable crowd you have to do something truly special. TRIBULATION are one such band. Up to 2015 the band stuck to the blueprints of their homeland’s blend of death metal but The Children of the Night demonstrated a band willing to experiment and push their sound to new and exciting pastures. Three years later and album number four, Down Below, is almost here. We caught up with guitarist Adam Zaars to lift the lid on their brand new record, the band’s evolving sound alongside casting a light to their upcoming European tour with ARCH ENEMY.
So, you are set to release your brand new album Down Below in January next year. What can fans expect from the upcoming album?
Adam: They can expect another TRIBULATION album that to me is very much in line with the previous releases. I would even say that Down Below is closer to The Children of the Night than the previous albums have been to each other, but with a clearly distinct flavour. Giallo sounding melodies, guitar solos, darkness, melancholy, death and destruction, beauty and romanticism.
By the time the album is released next year, it will have been three years since your last effort; The Children of the Night. How has the band developed in that time?
Adam: We have been touring quite extensively which has of course given us lot of experience in many different ways, not just musically. You get to know the songs a lot better when playing them so much, and they just keep on growing and transforming almost as if they have a life of their own. Maybe they do. I think we noticed when we recorded the album now that we don’t always need quite as many takes as we did in the past which makes life a bit easier in the studio! We also have a new drummer (Oscar Leander) who joined the band earlier this year and has had quite a lot to do with learning all the old songs and then writing and recording the new album with us. He’s doing great! We grow as persons and the music grows with us.
Can you explain the writing and recording process for Down Below?
Adam: In TRIBULATION the writing of the songs has primarily been done by me and Jonathan [Andersson, vocals], and that was the case this time as well. I think we both “always” write music in a way, it doesn’t really stop at any time even though it fluctuates. What I mean by this is that the seeds of the songs, be it riffs or melodies or just ideas of some kind or another, are being collected by us at any time. The seeds for these songs mostly come from this past touring cycle, and a couple of Jonathan’s songs already had a lot of meat on their bones over a year ago. The intense part of the composing, the puzzling together of the bits and pieces, started in the early months of this year, specifically in April for me. Jonathan worked mostly on his own, making demos at home and sending them to us for feedback, and then he would change something or other because of that and we would get to hear it again, and so on. I have mostly written the music on my own in the past as well, but because of various things I wanted the help of Johannes and Oscar this time. I personally suck when it comes to musical software of any kind and Oscar could help me with that, and the fact that they are both drummers really helped that part as well. It was also nice to get their personal input right away! We actually intentionally left a lot of the songs unfinished in order to have Martin Ehrencrona‘s, our producer, take on it as well, which proved to be very valuable. We started the recording of the album in the beginning of August in Soundtrade Studios for the drums and went from there to Martin‘s Studio Cobra and stayed there til October. We wanted to go there because we had been there for a few days for the recording of all the “additional instruments” on The Children Of The Night and really liked it there. It’s kind of being like a kid in a toy store because of all the cool instruments that currently call that studio their home. Very inspiring milieu so to speak!
The record still has that trademark TRIBULATION sound and the album flows remarkably well. How difficult was it to create such a dynamic album?
Adam: We weren’t looking to take any particular direction, we never really do. When we write the music and compile the albums with all that that entails we’re never really sure where it’s going to end, and if we ever did get a vision I don’t think we’ve ever reached it. And I say that in a positive way, because we put our faith into the music itself and let that take us to where it wants to go even though we are always trying to keep it from going too far off road. That’s been the case pretty much from the start and is probably the reason why all albums thus far have sounded pretty different from each other. We try not to over think anything and we don’t do a lot of planning when it comes to creating anything dynamic, it just kind of happens. Though if we noticed that we all of a sudden had five songs that were all fast paced and three minutes long we would probably say that it could be a good idea to make a slower and longer one, but I guess that’s just common sense if you’re not making a speed metal album. We’ve created something that TRIBULATION is and something that TRIBULATION isn’t but what is and what isn’t is not always super clear, but the space that is is pretty big and wide and we can always bring elements in from what isn’t into what is. This space is created by all of our musical preferences and experiences and ideals from the past and that entails a lot of music that isn’t metal at all and I think that’s what’s making itself known through this TRIBULATION filter, because everything goes through this filter and if it’s too big, or whatever, it won’t make the cut.
So what messages, themes and concepts does Down Below address?
Adam: We don’t have a message, hopefully a relief to some in this overly political world we find ourselves in. We create art that can be interpreted by the viewer/listener in any way they want to interpret it even though there are many different personal reasons behind the titles, words and aesthetics that are present in the album. Many, not just one! We did however find out that there sort of was an underlying theme, or maybe a couple, going through the album. We noticed as some point that both me and Jonathan focused on a cthonic, underworldly theme in many of the songs, and then we had the title for the album that was with us as a working title for a couple of the songs that later resurfaced when we couldn’t find a title for the album. That title corresponded very well with the album artwork that was already done and with this lyrical theme, so it all kind of fell into place! It’s also a kind of mournful album in many ways. Something that’s just a consequence of our personal lives.
Whilst your debut album is firmly within the old school death metal sound, later albums including Down Below has seen you develop and evolve your sound; pulling in a range of different musical styles. Was this development always intentional or did it happen organically?
Adam: Organically! As I said above the music grows with us and what we do is to simply filter it into what is TRIBULATION. Exactly what that is is difficult to answer, but it’s ecstatic, dark, melancholy, frightful and beautiful and metal.
And with this evolution of your sound, do you feel it gives TRIBULATION a unique sound that makes you stand apart from the competition?
Adam: I don’t know to be honest! If it does then that’s really cool of course, but I couldn’t say myself.
Down Below is certainly the next chapter for TRIBULATION. When looking at your past records, do you think that Down Below represents your best work?
Adam: Every album represents a time and a place in our lives and we always do our very best. At the moment this album feels like the best one, but I don’t know what I’m going to feel years from now. It’s all a matter of the context I think, especially when it’s your own work. I usually have a difficult time saying what albums and so on that I like the most because I feel like there’s a situation for everything. I couldn’t say what IRON MAIDEN album I like the most or what MORBID ANGEL album I like the most because it always changes for me. Though definitely Covenant at the moment [laughs]!
And really, what do you hope to achieve with Down Below?
Adam: We are hoping to go around the entire world to play quality live shows, and we are aiming to do that better and better every time we do it! We also hope to grow as a band so that we’re able to move more freely in this strange business.
Following the release of the new album in January you will be hitting the road with ARCH ENEMY. What can fans expect from your upcoming live performances?
Adam: They can expect us to give it all every night as we always do! It’s going to be really great to get out there again, and this time with Oscar behind the drums. It’s a great opportunity for the fans to get to know him.
To close, we will offer you the floor. Do you have anything to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?
Adam: Then I would like to paraphrase the late Terence Mckenna: Take it easy, but take it! I guess that was actually a message after all…
Down Below is set for release on January 26th via Century Media Records.
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