Story by Jon Garcia
For the first time since the departure of one of their founding members, Swedish gothic metal luminaries Tribulation have new material to share in the form of Hamartia, a four-song EP of three new tracks and one Blue Öyster Cult cover.
While it’s natural to assume the new songs could be a bridge to the next album or a hint at what’s to come, guitarist Adam Zaars is very candid when asked where he thinks these songs will take the band.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” he admits. “And I’m still looking forward to finding out, to be honest.”
Welcoming in a familiar face
Tribulation is at an interesting point as a band. Not only are they preparing for the follow up of 2021’s highly acclaimed Where the Gloom Becomes Sound, but they’re also navigating that creativity with a new-but-not-new member.
Shortly before the release of Gloom, guitarist Jonathan Hultén — who’d written seven of the album’s 10 tracks — announced his departure. At the same time, he recommended Joseph Tholl take his place.
Tholl, a good friend of bassist and vocalist Johannes Andersson’s, knows the guys in Tribulation well. He’s even contributed riffs and ideas to previous albums, so it seemed a natural fit all around.
With that familiarity, the band has been taking their time on new material. Zaars said they didn't want to rush into another album since they never even got to tour on Gloom. The three original tracks that comprise Hamartia are the result of several weekend writing sessions from last year, and include the first song composed exclusively by Tholl, “Axis Mundi.”
But both Zaars and Tholl are quick to say the songs are not indicative of where the band may be heading.
“I think the EP is something different,” Tholl, said. “In my opinion the EP is not really pointing in any direction. We probably could have done it faster if we had more pressure. But it felt like we really took the time to hang out and listen to other kinds of music and go through the material very carefully, just because it was fun to do.”
“Writing music is not always fun,” Zaars laughed. “I like doing it! But it’s so terrible. I feel so horrible when I do it. So this time it was actually fun. Fun and easy.”
They don’t offer much on what may be coming with the next album because there isn’t anything to offer. Their conversations are mostly in the abstract right now, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been tinkering.
“We’ve actually done one thing,” Zaars recalls. “I had an idea and then we sat around playing with that idea, and Joseph did most of it. That’s a thing we haven’t done in a while, is start with an idea together in the band. We usually write… I write one song and in the past Jonathan wrote his. So that’s something… not new, but something we’ve haven’t done in a while. Looking forward to seeing where we can take that.”
“Yeah, it’s a pretty cool way to work,” Tholl said. “What kind of sounds do we want to build.”
“That’s what we’ve been talking about more. Where do we want to take it? What kind of sounds. We’ve been talking a lot about sounds. … But we have started something. Let’s see if we take it down that road. We still don’t have a single song.”
“We’re only talking about sounds and production, and that’s the way we’re going to keep it until we get into the studio. And then…”
“And then we’ll panic,” Zaars interjected with a laugh.
“It’ll be, ‘You got any chords or something?’” Tholl joked.
The plan is to enter the studio and hopefully record album number six by the end of the year.
Tribulation has always been a band to embrace uncertainty and let the music guide itself. If Down Below in 2018 was the continuation of the melancholic, gothic metal of 2015’s The Children of the Night, Gloom felt like a culmination of that sound. Their discography feels like a journey because that’s exactly what it’s been. It’s only natural to wonder comes next.
Tholl said he thinks people actually expect Tribulation to do something new each album. That people would be disappointed if they put out a record that sounded exactly like the last.
Of course, the band isn’t concerned with what anyone else wants. They write music purely for themselves and are confident they’ll be satisfied with the result, even if it wasn’t what they initially thought.
Zaars thinks the band has gained the trust of its listeners, who in turn seem more than happy to sit back and let them weave their magic.
“I was talking someone the other day who said that when The Children of the Night came out, usually people would be upset because it sounded so different. But it didn’t happen! Hopefully people will be able to take something new in again, because I agree with you: Where the Gloom Becomes Sound was kind of the end point of something, at least. Hopefully people will be able to take it. Hopefully we will be able to do it as well,” he said with a chuckle. “Who knows!”
One thing is for certain: Tribulation are hungry.
“We still feel like we have more Tribulation to express,” Zaars said. “There is more in that bag so to speak. For a while I guess, it felt like maybe that bag was empty. But it doesn’t feel like that anymore and as long as we feel that way I think that the pressure is manageable.”
Tribulation knows who they are. The spirit of the band is woven so tightly with their sound that they too are eager to see where it takes them.
“I think we’ll try to tweak that a bit. I’m sure it’s still going to sound like Tribulation, and I’m sure people will say that, ‘Oh, this sounds like Tribulation’ because that always seems to be the case. I think we all feel like we want to do something new with the new material, and that’s one big part of it. And again, I’m sure it’s going to sound like Tribulation.”
“Hopefully at least,” he added with a laugh.
Hamartia, the latest EP from Tribulation is now available via Century Media Records - HERE