Interview: Tribulation

Tribulation itself. We’ve already laid the foundation and built the space in which we are working and now it’s just a matter of exploring that space.

Where The Gloom Becomes Sound, the new album from Tribulation is a thrilling listen, packed full of epic and anthemic songs with plenty of haunting refrains. Gavin Brown caught up with Tribulation guitarist Adam Zaars to hear about the new album and its creation as well as discussing the band’s line-up changes and how it feels like a new beginning for Tribulation, music videos and the influence of film, the return of live shows and how they have changed as a band since they unleashed their debut album.

E&D: The new Tribulation album Where The Gloom Becomes Sound is out now. How did the recording and creation of the album go and was it a challenging task creating this album because of the situation the word is on with the pandemic?

Adam: It went very well! Recording an album is always demanding of course, but that is to be expected. There are days you feel like everything sounds like crap and other days where it all seems to be very easy on the ears. Sometimes you get stuck and some days the inspiration is just flowing. But over all it was a really nice experience getting to work every day with our producer Jamie Elton. The pandemic didn’t affect the recording that much. We tried to be as few people in the studio at the same time as possible, but that was just a good thing I think.

E&D: Were the lyrics on the album influenced at all by what’s been going on for the past year?

Adam: No, not mine at least. I don’t think Jonathan’s were either. We rarely, if ever, comment on contemporary issues in our lyrics.

E&D: Do you feel that this album is the most grandiose statement that Tribulation have made especially on songs like ‘Dirge From A Dying Soul’, ‘Elementals’ and the closing ‘The Wilderness’?

Adam: No, not really. We’ve had a lot of big and epic songs in the past, like ‘Apparitions’ and ‘Winds’ for example, and I don’t see these as more grandiose.

E&D: Was that sound your intention when you started making the album?

Adam: It might have been for Jonathan, but not for me. You never really know how it’s going to turn out!

E&D: The haunting refrain ‘Lethe’ is a beautiful piece of music. Can you tell us about that song and its place on the album?

Adam: Jonathan both composed and played this one, it’s beautiful. It was the only time we went to a different studio, because we had to have a piano that wasn’t out of tune. We usually have instrumental songs scattered throughout our albums because we feel it adds to the full experience of it and it helps build the atmosphere better. There could have been more of that since a lot of our ideas work best on other instruments than guitar, bass and drums, and sometimes we have to discard them, so it’s always nice to get something of that nature in there. I suppose we might see more of that in the future.

E&D: What has been the biggest influence on Where The Gloom Becomes Sound?

Adam: Tribulation itself. We’ve already laid the foundation and built the space in which we are working and now it’s just a matter of exploring that space. This doesn’t mean that other influences can’t come in, they do, but we no longer want to sound like specific other bands, we’re building and creating from the raw material that is already there, moulding it into new shapes and expressions.

E&D: What has the reaction from fans been like for the new album?

Adam: I don’t know! So far I’ve only heard and seen what magazines write. I’m as isolated as anyone else, and I don’t read comments on social media. We’ve now released this album onto the world and what happens after that is out of my control anyway, so I don’t have that much interest in what people think about it. This doesn’t mean I don’t want people to tell me what they think if they meet me, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, but I don’t seek that information out myself.

E&D: This is the last album that Jonathan Hulten has made as Tribulation guitarist. Do you think feel that this will act as a fitting swansong for his time in the band?

Adam: Yes, absolutely! He composed quite a few songs on the album, so this was a good ending for him. This also means that it might be a good time to see if we can create something that sounds a bit different from what we’ve done in the recent years.

E&D: What are your favourite memories of Jonathan as a guitarist, band mate and person?

Adam: Well, it’s not like he died, we’ll still see him. But my fondest memories in a Tribulation context are probably from when we wrote the first album! We were very serious, very focused, very creative and had so many big ideas! This all happened in our parents houses since we were still kids, as well as in a kind of art school we went to when we had graduated. That’s where we did some of the layout for the first album. Stoic and imaginative times filled with bones, blood, pentagrams, dirt, art and naïvité.

E&D: Are you looking forward to a new beginning with your new guitarist Joseph Tholl? What will Joseph bring to the sound and ethos of Tribulation? Have you had any thoughts at all about new material with the new lineup?

Adam: Yes, very much so. It has been a slow start since we just released the album and because I live a few hours away from the rest of the guys, so we haven’t had many chances to do anything. I try to stay away from public transportation and I don’t have a car. Joseph will bring his creativity and his personality. I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll use that in a Tribulation context! I always gather material for new songs, and I’ve been doing quite a lot of that recently. We’ll try to meet up as soon as possible to see what we can do about it, I’m sure he’s got material as well! Johannes, our singer, has been talking about it as well, so this might be interesting.

 

E&D: You have just released a video for the song ‘Funeral Pyre’. Can you tell us about the video, the making of it and it and the songs themes and you have also done videos for the songs ‘Leviathans’ and ‘Hour of the Wolf’, can you tell us about the visual elements of those video?   

Adam: The video for ‘Funeral Pyre’ is Claudio Marino’s take on the songs and the lyrics. It doesn’t completely match my intention for the lyrics, but that was never the idea, we wanted him to do his thing. The basics are there though, the death, the struggle, the pyre, the transcendence. The lyrics are set in the bronze age in the Mediterranean area and the video is obviously not anywhere near that, but again, that was never the intention. We had the help of Pelle and Hampus from Watain who built and lit the pyre as well as all of Claudio’s crew. We were just there for one cold afternoon/evening and it was all very smooth! They shot the rest before we got there and kept us updated. A fiery video for a fiery song! Great work by Claudio! Ulf Lundén made the Leviathans video, the watery video. Initially I sent him a bunch of stuff to work with, all coming from the layout, and wanted him to try some of his own stuff as well. At first it was a mix of both, but I didn’t think it matched so I asked him to do it all with his own stuff! We wanted it to be very vague and fuzzy, and I think it turned out great. ‘Hour of the Wolf’ was another cold one! We did it with our old friend Gustav Öhman Spjuth who did the video for ‘Strange Gateways Beckon’ as well. We went to a castle outside of Stockholm and did this ghost story kind of video!

E&D: Do you think that music videos are still a strong way of giving your music a visual representation?

Adam: Sure, when they are good it works well. It might be something we would like to explore some more in the future. The problem is that it always happens just as your releasing an album and you don’t have enough time to do it properly, which is why we have the help of other people. But it would be cool to do one where we are a lot more involved!

E&D: What are some of your favourite music videos of all time?

Adam: Michael Jackson did some really cool ones, as did Guns n’ Roses, obviously. Beastie Boys as well, and Foo Fighters of all bands. Probably the first time I ever mention them in an interview. Mr Oizo’s ‘Flat Beat’ is really good. I’ve always loved both ‘Rapture’ and ‘God Of Emptiness’ from Morbid Angel’s Covenant, they are really excellent. I loved Iron Maiden’s ‘Can I Play With Madness’ when I was a kid as well, with that animated Eddie.

E&D: What films have made a big impression on Tribulation and your music?

Adam: Many, but just a few made a big impression! Right from the start movies were a big source of inspiration for the band, musically, lyrically and aesthetically. In the very beginning it was mostly Italian horror movies like The Beyond, Zombie II, Cannibal Holocaust, Zombie Holocaust, Suspiria, Profondo Rosso and similar movies, as well as movies made elsewhere like Romero’s zombie flicks. So that’s directors like Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and Ruggero Deodato and music by Riz Ortolani, Fabio Frizzi, Goblin etc. Especially me and Johannes would rent and buy horror movies all the time in our teens! Some of those continue to inspire us but the movie that’s made the deepest impression on us is probably Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu from 1979, including the soundtrack by Popol Vuh. I am actually listening to that soundtrack as I’m writing this! Some aspects of those zombie movies, especially the music, have been an inspiration for the new album as well. Another one I could mention is The Name of the Rose from 1986, but the book has inspired me a lot more than the movie, but the soundtrack is fantastic.

E&D: Are you looking forward to taking this album out on the road as soon as you can?

Adam: If it happens, then yes!

E&D: What do you miss most about playing live and life on the road?

Adam: Everything that comes with travelling. The (usually) warmer climate, the food, the sights, the change in scenery in general, the different cultural expressions. Just walking around a city and having a beer or a coffee somewhere. And, of course, the actual shows! I can’t say I miss staying on a bus with 20 people and sleeping in bunks and everything that comes with that, and I can’t say I miss having to use public toilets for a month or being away from my family. But when that starts again you just deal with it, and it’s fine, it’s just not something you miss.

E&D: What has been the most memorable show that Tribulation have ever played and what made it so memorable?

Adam: I really can’t pick just one, because I would probably think of another one when I’m done writing. But the show we recorded and released as a live album (Alive & Dead at Södra Teatern) a couple of years ago was special. It was just us and we made it all as Tribulation as possible. It was a show in two “acts” with a seated audience in a beautiful theatre, with program sheets with stamped wax and an MC announcing everything. We played all of Down Below in the first act and then a mix of older songs in the second act. We also had our friend Sofia join in on the last song on organs! A night to remember. Another one is a show we did at a masonic lodge in LA a few years ago that was just… something else. The energy, the crowd… it was just one of those shows. And then there are a ton more!

E&D: How do you feel that Tribulation have changed as a band both in your outlook and sound since your debut album The Horror in 2009?

Adam: The outlook is pretty much the same. Very similar influences, as you might have noticed in my answers so far, and an attitude that’s pretty much the same. The outcome is just different, it comes out in different ways now, things are moulded into different shapes. We’re still very DIY, we still more or less want it to be art for art’s sake (in the form of a metal band!), it’s still oriented towards religion, horror and the supernatural. The music should, ideally, still come out as yellow bones, glimmering gems and gold, old parchment, deep red blood, withering ruins, dried up corpses, misty moors, haunted houses and devotion and yearning.

E&D: Who are your biggest influences as a musician?

Adam: Iron Maiden and Morbid Angel have been the bands that have been the most influential, and specifically Adrian Smith and Trey Azagthoth for me, but I see myself more as a songwriter than a musician really.

E&D: What have been some of your proudest moments in your time with Tribulation so far?

Adam: “Achievement is its own reward, pride obscures it”, as a certain major once said. I never really had that feeling that people talk about when “holding your new album in your hands for the first time”, not as strongly as other people seem to have at least, even though I probably wanted to feel it. It’s not a popularity contest and I usually try not looking back at what we’ve done in the past but instead focus on what we are to do in the future. That’s probably why I very rarely go back and listen to our music once we are done with the mix, it doesn’t interest me much. But still, I think it was probably when we had done our first seven inch or something like that, to have your music imprinted in the vinyl for the first time. That was cool, of course, we were like 17! We had a great night when we won that Swedish Grammy as well, but things like that are fleeting and it doesn’t really concern our progress and I try not to hang on to it.

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