Tribulation - Interview
Yesterday, the new album "When the Gloom Becomes the Sound" by Tribulation was released. They started as a black metal band in the style of Watain, but in the course of time and with each album they have moved away from their roots and brought many other musical influences into their songs. The new album is again a consistent further development of their own style, whereby this time a stringency is to be recognized, which was somewhat missing at least on the last album "Down Below". Reason enough to ask a little more closely, for this Tribulations guitarist Adam Zaars took time and we conducted a conversation via Skype.
Hi Adam, first of all thank you for taking the time to do this interview! How are you doing?
I'm doing well, absolutely.
You had a lot of interviews already?
Yeah, a ton.
You have evolved on the new album after all. If the last album was quite uniform, this time you managed to combine quite rocky parts with calmer passages. Was that intentional or did the songs develop more spontaneously in the studio?
Not in the studio but we never talked about what we wanted it to sound like, it was both me and our previous guitar player Jonathan who wrote the songs and we didn't really talked about what we were going to do in advance so it was a very natural thing as it always has been. We never really planned anything.
I think that you have a wide range of musical influences. Clearly Iron Maiden, although I think their influence has diminished a bit compared to your last album, The Cure, Dissection, but I also sometimes feel reminded of Ghost and even Heroes del Silencio and also some classical composers from the riffs and the sound. Am I right?
Yeah, absolutely. We get inspiration from a lot of different things. Well, it could be anything, the style of music is varied, just trying to express some feeling that you get from another piece of art, whatever it is. A movie, a painting or architecture or some kind of printing, whatever. And musically it is like you said, absolutely Dissection and so on but it's also ever been since we first started that we are quite heavily influenced by movie soundtracks, particularly some German and Italian horror movies, like the band Goblin who made music to Dario Argentos movies like "Suspiria". We also draw a lot of inspiration from Swedish folk music, just the vibe of it as well as the melodies. Especially the melancholic sites of these. So, the inspiration comes from anywhere.
If I think back to your beginnings, which are in the black metal area - how deeply are you still rooted in this style and do you still have contact with BM bands?
Yes. I wouldn't say I was equally involved as I was then because then you would go to every show you could, but not only extreme metal but also metal shows in general and other shows as well. I mean since we've been playing and touring so much, going to shows on our own is something that's rarer these days. But of course, most of my friends are from the metal scene and particular from the black metal scene. We recorded a video a couple of weeks ago for the song 'Funeral Pyre' from the new album and we got help from a few of the guys in Watain. They built and lit the pyre that's in the video, so yes, we do have contact with other bands in this scene.
The first thing that stands out about "Where the Gloom Becomes Sound" is the cover. You used a bust instead of a painting this time. Who is it supposed to represent, and which artist did it come from?
It's supposed to be a Sybil (Greek meaning for prophetess; Michael), an oracle and the artist was active around the turn of the last century. It was a Belgian artist called Fernand Khnopff. I guess he did both – sculptures and paintings but all of this is more a kind of coincidence. It is not really the reason why we chose it. The fact that it is a Sybil fits quite well with the lyrical content actually but that's just synchronicity I guess. The reason why we chose it was that we didn't quite know what to have on the cover and we never really do when we're in the studio, we never really have a cover, we don't have a title, it all comes from the songs because we have to hear them and see what it awakes in us.
So, you mean first the sound and then the picture?
Yes, and that is what it represents for us. Our singer Johannes brought a poster that he recently purchased that he hung it up in the studio and we always try to make the studio as much Tribulation as possible. This was one of the things and when we were discussing the cover, all of us, or at least a few of us had been thinking maybe we can actually use this. That would be a new thing because Jonathan has always drawn the covers before. We wanted to try something new and we really felt that this image reflects the music well. So, it doesn't really have anything to do with lyrical content or a concept, I guess it's more superficial. My first idea was to find a statue and take a photo of it but we found out that it was probably destroyed in the war (WW2; Michael) so that was impossible but we had fortune in a way because the print that we have on the cover is a photo from the late 19th century. It fits well with our aesthetics.
I've read in the German Deaf Forever magazine that your studio had a window the first time…
(laughs) Yeah, times change, I guess. When we did the second album, we were in some kind of bunker and we only recorded in the evenings and during the night. So, this was a daytime recording with sun and windows and fresh air.
Your first video 'Leviathans' was released on the same day as Therion's "Leviathan". Pure coincidence or is there more behind it?
Yes, just pure coincidence. It was quite funny!
The song is about the powers of water, more on a metaphysical level or are you referring to the cleansing or even destructive power of nature?
The lyrics were written by Jonathan, but I would say that it is probably both. At least this was my idea for it. But it is also a coincidence – we had working titles for the songs named after the elements, both of us, Jonathan and me and that is why we took advantage of that I guess. 'Funeral Pyre' for instance is obviously a fire song and in that song it's definitely both, the metaphysical level and the material reality of the fire.
If you look at the song titles - 'Djinn', 'Leviathans', 'Innana', 'Lethe', these are all terms of the ancient times. Did you put a focus on ancient mysteries and gods lyrically on the album, or are they all just metaphors for things of today?
Well, it could be both. I mean 'Lethe' for instance is about forgetting and that title and concept crept into the one or the other songs like 'Daughter of the Djinn'. I guess it's some kind of using the language in a more poetic sense, writing about both – actually myths and also to some extent describing the reality we still live in.
Who in the band can play the piano so well? I think 'Lethe' is a beautifully composed piece. According to the ancient Greek word for forget - what do you want to forget? The actual situation we live in?
Jonathan is the one who is playing the piano and the one who wrote the song as well. I think it's about forgetting, but I'm talking about his song, so I'm not sure if he would agree. And again, it is related to 'Daughter of the Djinn', so it's also about a kind of escape I guess. And at the moment I think that's what most of us are doing on a daily basis with an increase of people who are listening to podcasts, reading literature, watching movies, watching Netflix I guess. So, it could be a comment for that, but it could be a comment on trying to get away from a lot of things, maybe also from the contemporary world.
I already mentioned the name Ghost earlier. In 'Daughter of the Djinn' you sing "Drink me, eat me...", a passage that Ghost already sang on their last album in "See The Light". In addition, Tom Dalgety, who was already responsible for Ghost, is responsible for the mix. Is that pure coincidence?
I didn't know about Ghost. I mean it's from "Alice in Wonderland". And Tom did the mixing and did a fantastic job. We met him on the tour we did with Ghost.
The title of your album "Where the Gloom Becomes Sound" you took from the song "Hades »Pluton«" by Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows, a German band. The song is about a love that ends tragically united in death. Apart from the fact that the song is quite different from your style – death is also a central element in your music. 'The Funeral Pyre' is also about a tragic love and the transition to the other world by burning the corpse. Is the song a tribute to Sopor Aeternus?
You could see the title as some kind of tribute. I listen to them for many years now and am inspired by them, but I also think that we share similar influences. But the title is more than just a tribute. It also caught my attention because it describes what we've been trying to do ever since the first album. In the sentence it is labeled as gloom, but it also could be darkness or some other word because it's quite vague. It's still that thing that we're trying to express in the music for such a long time now. So, it was more a term that is quite fitting, and we already thought about naming out previous album Where the Gloom Becomes Sound as well but for some reason Down Below was just a better title for that album. It fits better on this album, I think. But in general, that could be a label for our vision.
What is your belief - what comes after death?
Well, I don't know. I really don't know what to think. I do know that I don't think that we just vanish. I don't believe in that materialistic view of life. I think it would be a strange thing. It's been something that people have been believing for a very short amount of time in a very small part of the world whereas almost the rest of the world at least believes or experiences something else and that's been a truth for millennia. So, I know what I don't believe but what really happens then is really interesting to discuss but I don't have anything that I firmly believe in.
'The Wilderness' also reminds me of another band - maybe it's completely wrong, but from the choice of words I spontaneously thought of "Where The Wild Roses Grow" by Nick Cave. Is this the Tribulation version or am I absolutely wrong with that?
No, you're not wrong with that. It's a song written by Jonathan. I think that's where he got the inspiration for the verses, but he asked me to write the lyrics. In a way it was like a blueprint. The working title was 'The Wilderness' and usually we change the working titles into something else, but I felt that it was just the right title for the song, and it has also this story-telling vibe like in "Where The Wild Roses Grow". So, you're absolutely right, that was an inspiration for the song.
If you had to decide which 10 songs absolutely have to be played at your next concert, how many from "When the Gloom Becomes Sound" would be there and which songs from the previous albums?
Oh, wow…well, we always want to play a few of the new songs. It feels ridiculous to write music and not to play it. I understand bands that are playing the old songs because the fans want to hear these songs. I am often feeling the same, but I would probably choose from our new album 'In Remembrance', 'Leviathans', 'Hour of the Wolf', 'Daughter of the Djinn' and 'Funeral Pyre' I guess. And older songs, wow…I would like to play 'Subterranea' from Down Below because we only played it once I think and it's been a song that people have been requesting a lot and we just never did it. I would also choose 'Nightbound' from that album, maybe I would choose 'Rånda' from our second album and 'Strange Gateways Beckon' from our third album The Children of the Night and I would spontaneously choose 'Lacrimosa' from Down Below as well. That would be my setlist for today.
Let's get back to something completely different. You probably can't hear it anymore, but Corona unfortunately keeps the whole world in suspense. Sweden has taken its own path in the Corona policy and it was proved to be not that good. What do you think about it?
Honestly I think it's horrible. I'm amazed to see what's going on and I'm constantly amazed to see our politicians in the government talking about it. Not everything but a few of the things are mind-boggling to me. The resistance to recommend the use of wearing masks for instance. They just now did this on the 7th of January. They recommended the use of wearing masks when you use public transportation but only at certain hours of the day, but it doesn't work, so it shouldn't really matter. I mean there are a lot of things that have obviously gone wrong and they seem incapable of any self-criticism and they keep changing the story. It's ridiculous. They keep saying that they said something else in the spring. There are clips from Swedish television where they are saying these things, but they keep denying it, it's like living in a farce. It's very strange.
Are the stores and schools still open?
Yes, the stores are open, universities are closed and have switched to home-schooling and some schools are open. The older kids go to school on certain days, one half of the kids is at home, the other half goes to school and it seems that people get infected in the schools, too and this is also something that the government denied for a long time.
Unfortunately time is already up, so thanks a lot for the interview!
Thank you, too!
Where The Gloom Becomes Sound
Alive & Dead At Södra Teatern
The Children Of The Night
The Death & Rebirth Of…
The Formulas Of Death
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