Having started off like so many Swedish death metal bands by worshipping at the putrid altar of Entombed on debut album The Horror (Pulverised), Arvika upstarts Tribulation clearly weren’t content to merely rehash the work of the elders, as demonstrated by sophomore record The Formulas of Death (Invictus), a lengthy concept piece that won them many admirers despite not straying too far from established templates. All that has changed now with third effort The Children of the Night (Century Media), which save for snarled vocals and horror themed lyrics, is a classic heavy metal record, far more interested in melody and catchy songs than aggression and violence.
Aided by a lo-fi, vintage production which isn’t a million miles away from the kind of vibe Opeth have been cultivating on their past two albums, the music on The Children of the Night rarely gets above mid-paced; those who came here expecting blastbeats and tremolo picking will be sorely disappointed. Instead we get some fantastic guitar interplay between Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hulten that dart and weave amidst each other like a pair of bats dancing at twilight.
A lot of influence appears to have been taken from both Watain’s Lawless Darkness (Century Media), and last year’s final In Solitude record Sister (Metal Blade), especially on the vaguely groovy gothisms of ‘In the Dreams of the Dead’, while the sinister melodies and big stomping riffs of ‘Winds’ is like Iron Maiden if Steve Harris was forced to watch repeated showings of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.
There’s also a strong yet subtle Sisters of Mercy feel to the album, noticeably on the achingly hip ‘The Motherhood of God’ with its irresistibly danceable rhythms and morose, melodic verses. The songwriting throughout the record is full of surprises, from the catchy chugging riffs of opener ‘Strange Gateways Beckon’ to the mysterious doomy refrains of closing track ‘The Motherhood of God.’ One gripe is that the record is ten minutes too long and where instrumentals should be used to build atmosphere, the two tracks here go nowhere and should have been culled. That said, The Children of the Night is a brave record from an exceedingly talented set of musicians who are just that more subtle when it comes to what style of darkness works best.