Death metal is a genre of music that's never really died out, mainly due to the fact that it's a much more expansive genre, than say thrash or grindcore, but not all of these different sub-sub-genres and beyond are great, and a reason why I abhor a majority of the death metal material released between 1994 and the mid-2000s. There was just too much technical wanking for the sake of being a technical band, and the same with the brutal death metal bands. History lesson aside, there's been a lot of death metal bands and releases past the genre's prime years, most bastardizing the old-school ways or simply aping it, but there was an album that came out in 2009 that blew just about every new-old-school (redundant, I know) death metal band away, and that record was Tribulation's "The Horror." It was an album that captured a frenzied, yet concise and vicious sound that had the metal underground in awe. After a couple years past with little word of a new album, it was becoming obvious from fans that they wanted, no, they needed some more Tribulation, and four years after the release of the modern-day classic "The Horror," the Swedish quartet has released their sophomore full-length "The Formulas of Death."
After listening to this album multiple times and letting it sink in, it's pretty obvious that Tribulation decided to take their sound in a different direction this time around, and they managed to do it without fucking up what made them so awesome, all the while, making strides many might not have seen coming. Their debut record was an onslaught of riffs and savage barks that channeled the Swedish death metal gods that came before, but "The Formulas of Death" has forsaken some of the aggression and fury from its predecessor, and added a whole new dimension to their brand of death metal. There's a lot more focus on the atmosphere of the music this time around, and that couldn't be more evident than with the album-opening instrumental "Vagina Dentata," or the other instrumentals which feature acoustics, pianos and other "additional instruments." Of course, the atmospheric tendencies reach beyond the instrumentals, as a lot of the melodies and clean guitar sections throughout the record create an almost dark, psychedelic aura that sucks the listener in, only for them to eventually get pummeled to dust by the eventual death metal madness...
The strength in the songwriting is really what separates Tribulation from so many pretenders in today's scene, and while they may overdo it a little at some points ("Suspiria" and "Through the Velvet Black" drag on a little too long for my liking), the positives far outweigh the negatives. Instead of just going for the listener's throat with a relentless attack like the band did (and damn well might I add) on "The Horror," there's a lot more variety on "The Formulas of Death." There are a lot of morbid melodies throughout this album, but when compared to the amount of decent to stellar riffs, it's kind of scary, and even scarier when crafted into songs that seem to reach 2 to 3 different climaxes. Songs like "Wanderer in the Outer Darkness" and "When the Sky Is Black with Devils" both take wild twists and turns throughout their durations, building up to awesome points, only to slow back down and then smack you in the face again whether it be with evil and twisted tremolo bursts, amazing solos (and there's a lot of them on this album), blistering fast riffs or some heavy riffs made to bang your head, Tribulation knows how to keep the listener enthralled and waiting anxiously for what comes after the next riff. "The Formulas of Death" is already a strong contender for death metal album of the year, and it may take a few listens before the impact of how well-crafted this record is sinks in, but once it does, it's hard to put down. It may not be quite as good as the phenomenal debut, but this album did it's job, and that was notify every band out there that Tribulation is back to take their throne as the kings of (today's) Swedish death metal scene.
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"Wanderer in the Outer Darkness"
"When the Sky Is Black with Devils"
"When the Sky Is Black with Devils"
4.5/5 or 90%.