The Formulas of Death

Written by: EW on 28/05/2013 15:56:35

My naive expectations of getting the opportunity to review "The Horror" pt II when signing up for this album were quickly dashed upon listening to "The Formulas of Death" - the task of following up an album that was as warm in production as it was cold-blooded in execution, Tribulation have taken the brave decision to alter the recipe significantly and the result is nothing if not unexpected. Going from 33 to 75 minute releases is one thing, but to go from all-out assault to textured, mystical expressionism is quite another. Re-working the success of "The Horror" was one option, but what this is is Tribulation's supreme confidence in their own abilities.

Opener "Vagina Dentata" (google the term if you wish) proves that change; a care-free usage of four minutes for atmosphere building is quite something but symptomatic of the artistic freedom with which Tribulation continue. Thereafter the Swedes deliver a run of tracks which flow in the kind of distorting, challenging ways that are keeping me interested after umpteen listens. At their fastest the pace is no match for much of "The Horror"; these riffs feel too calculated to be delivered at breakneck speed. Interspersing those fast riffs that do exist are moments of calm, these emerging as anything from bridges of momentary transition to the kind of the long winding passages from which there is no indication of what might exist on the other side. The success of the album is built upon these, although in the likes of "Spectres" and "When the Sky is Black with Devils" they can come at just the wrong time, like when someone pauses your favourite song just as it is about to enter the best moment. These sharp changes were to also make for what I thought to be a difficult performance of some of these new songs when I saw them in London earlier this year, although I hesitate to say with time they will come to be delivered with better results.

First song proper "Wanderer in the Outer Darkness" says all you need to know, sewing countless highly intelligent riffs together to create a quilt of intriguing Middle Eastern darkness. From its blistering start "Spectres" wanders off into post-metal territory and back, while "Suspiria" utilises a backbone of morose Katatonia moods under slow-motion Morbid Angel riffs to weave a very complex 11 minutes. Through the Velvet Black" harks back to "The Horror" more closely than much else here as the same crusty, melodically-inclined death metal band briefly return. In "Spell" the leadwork of Adam Zaars is a great example of how to adapt a performance to the over-riding feel of a song without adding those kinds of flourishes that add nothing to a song. "Ultra Silvam" features more Eastern chords in what ultimately feels like an introduction to 14-minute closer Apparitions", a song that begins quickly but which drags on a little too long in its blackened, moody closing stages.

I have read elsewhere of "The Formulas..." being to "The Horror" what Morbid Angel's "Blessed are the Sick" was to "Altars Of Madness" - a comparison I'd love to have penned myself as it summarises the change perfectly. With most songs topping six minutes and a total running time of 75 minutes this is sure to be one of the most challenging listens of the year, necessitating the kind of patient listening that is beyond all but metal's diehards. For this reason "The Formulas of Death" will not be enough to break Tribulation to the wider ranks of death, but in all other means they have come close to constructing the perfect album to do so.

Download: Spell, Wanderer in the Outer Darkness, When the Sky is Black with Devils
For The Fans Of: Morbid Angel, Weapon, Repugnant
Listen: Facebook

Release date: 01.03.2013
Invictus Productions

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