Tribulation - Interview

One of the most unique and "out of the ordinary" bands of the 21st century in the Swedish metal scene and metal in general, is without a doubt Tribulation from Arvika. They're known best for their unusual style of very progressive gothic heavy metal with rock 'n roll and black metal elements, while also heavily influenced by oldschool gothic horror and Italian horror movies from cult directors such as Dario Argento. Aside from their change of genre from death metal to what they are known today, they also had various lineup changes throughout the years, with the recent one being the guitarist Jonathan Hultén who was replaced by Joseph Tholl (VOJD, Tyrann, ex-Enforcer) after the fifth album "Where Gloom Becomes Sound" wrapped recording. However, this lineup change did not affect the band in any negative way, since they released their new EP Hamartia on April 7t, 2023. They kept their consistent musical style and have taken a more progressive approach in their songwriting, which resulted in a very positive reception from the fanbase. Joseph's trial by fire on this release proved his worthiness and it certainly shows a great deal of promise when the time comes for their next full-length album. For this occasion, I had the pleasure to speak with Joseph Tholl about his contribution to Tribulation, as well as his solo album "Devil's Drum" which was released in 2019. So, please join me on this delightful nocturnal journey which I truly hope you'll enjoy.


Greetings Joseph! First of all, I'd like to wish you a warm welcome on behalf of MetalBite. How are you doing brother?

I'm good, thank you. Sweden is at its darkest and coldest right now, but that makes good time for making music.

This year, Tribulation released the new EP "Hamartia" and this is the band's first official release where you participated despite the fact that you joined the band back in 2020 before the release of the fifth full-length album "Where Gloom Becomes Sound". From your perspective, how was the overall experience working on this EP? Were you met with any challenges during the making of "Hamartia"?

I must say it was a very smooth process. It was great to reunite with Adam in the songwriting, almost exactly ten years after he quit Enforcer. We didn't put too much pressure on ourselves in the process, just letting these three songs come to life without analyzing what kind of direction we wanted to take and so on. We just wanted to do something together and we had a great time writing and recording the EP. We recorded drums with Linus Björklund, who I also play with in VOJD, in his studio, and the rest was recorded together with Robert Pehrsson in Studio Humbucker that me and Robert share.

Do you personally believe that this EP is a step forward for Tribulation and a progression from "Where Gloom Becomes Sound"?

Not really, to be honest. To me these songs sound quite classic Tribulation, almost a bit rawer and back to the old at some points. But that's what we wanted to do. We're working on the next album now however, and that's where the new directions are gonna show up.

The overall reception of "Hamartia" was very positive and it seems that the Tribulation fanbase gladly accepted you as an honorable successor to Jonathan Hultén who was the band's longtime guitarist for 16 years. Has the general fan reaction towards your contribution and the outcome of "Hamartia" encouraged or inspired you in some way to work more comfortably on future Tribulation releases?

I feel very welcomed by both the band and the fans and I'm very confident in how I want to contribute to the music. I entered with the mindset of adding a new touch to the compositions rather than trying to imitate what they've done before. It's great that we know each other so well since before, they are not uncomfortable with turning my ideas down if they are too far off for example, and that makes it easier for me to experiment, knowing that they know that I'm experimenting at times. I've always admired Tribulation for their ambitiousness and progressive creativity, there would be no point to contribute with safe cards they've already played.

What I found quite interesting about the new EP was the included cover of Blue Oyster Cult's 'Vengeance The Pact' as the fourth track, which at first seems like an impossible task for a band such as yourselves, but you guys successfully pulled it off and you created a fantastic cover which is still stylistically faithful to the original and also contains the signature traces of Tribulation. How did the band come up with the idea to cover this song in particular and what was your reaction when you settled down to do this? Also, are you guys big fans of Blue Oyster Cult?

Johannes wanted to cover BÖC for a long time so it was his suggestion, we're all big fans and agreed on it pretty soon. If you listen to the gloomy main riff it's easy to imagine Tribulation covering such song, but the rest of it was not as obvious when we began to dig into it, but that was a great challenge and it forced us to push the boundaries a bit in a cool way.

How did you feel personally when you joined Tribulation back in 2020, especially since you reunited with your old friends with whom you were playing back when Tribulation started as the thrash metal band Hazard? Was it a bit strange for you when you stepped in as a replacement for Hulten?

It felt very natural, as you said we're old friends and have played together in other bands during the years so we know each other very well, both personally and musically, and it's the same with Jonathan, it was no weird vibes or anything, and no problem for me to ask him for help learning the songs etc.

Aside from Tribulation and your other two bands VOJD and Tyrann, you also perform as a solo musician and you released your debut solo album "Devil's Drum" back in 2019. Has the overall experience on your solo album helped you a lot in later works, including Tribulation? Was there anything new that you learned or achieved when you were making "Devil's Drum"?

I learned a lot from making that album. I was my own engineer throughout the whole album, though I had my friend Robert Pehrsson, who is a professional studio engineer, working on his album in the same building so I could always ask him for advice. I also had to do all the business stuff, signing contracts and taking care of the budget and stuff. There's a lot of work putting an album together and I'm glad I could prove to myself that I can do that all by myself, I'll definitely do it again whenever there's time.

One song in particular which stood out from that album is 'They Fell From the Sky', because the main riff reminded me a bit of 'The Conjugation', which was the song you wrote in Enforcer for "Death by Fire" album. Was this resemblance a mere coincidence or was it perhaps meant to be a nostalgic throwback to that song?

It is actually the same melody but played in 6/8 instead of 4/4 as in 'The Conjugation'. I thought I'd just use it again with a slight variation haha. I have even used it before the Enforcer song too, it was part of an instrumental concert I did as my high school exam. So let's see if it shows up on the next Tribulation album as well haha.

Do any of the songs from "Devil's Drum" stand out as your personal favorites for a specific reason or do you love them all equally as children?

They all mean a lot to me but if I would choose one I'd say 'Follow The Fire'. It's a song that is quite far from what I usually do, maybe it's the least rock one on the album. It represents something that I don't do very often but feel 100% confident in doing.

Something that really caught my eye about your solo music is the diction in your vocals, which reminded me of Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and a bit of Chris Martin of Coldplay as well. Has any of them been an influence to your vocal style or were there perhaps any other vocalists that served as inspirations?

I dig Dire Straits and I appreciate the reference but I never thought of it myself, and I never listened to Coldplay more than what I heard on the radio. But they both have that kind of mellow, relaxed vocals that I wanted to use for most of the songs on my album. In Black Trip and VOJD I usually sing in a higher register with more intensity.

This year you celebrated the 10th year anniversary of Enforcer's third album "Death By Fire" along with Olof, Jonas and Tobias on Instagram's livestream. This album certainly holds up 10 years later, but more importantly, it was a pivotal point in the band's career and yours as well. Looking back on this album and fast forward to where you are now, do you feel as if "Death By Fire" broadened your musical capabilities, both as a musician and as a songwriter?

It is definitely an important record in my back catalog, just as the other Enforcer records I play on. To me "Diamonds" and "From Beyond" are equally important. But yeah there's something special about "Death By Fire" for sure. I think this is the record where Enforcer found its true sound. We also did a lot of memorable touring on this record.

What are you doing these days when you're not performing? Have you been listening to any new music lately or have you perhaps discovered new bands that caught your attention?

We're currently working on the next Tribulation album so that takes up most of the time right now. If I don't have a specific album to work on I enjoy going to the studio anyways to try out new ideas or just fool around with fun projects and stuff. When music is not my job it is my hobby. I also work part time as a carpenter since a couple years back, and I have a 1,5 year old son, so there's always something to keep me busy. I like to cook and that's my best moment to listen to new music. New Maggot Heart record was great. Got a little revival on Midnight the other day and been spinning their newest record that I haven't got to check out before, good stuff. But I'm also pretty bad at keeping myself up to date with new music, I try, but too often I find myself putting on the same record that I've heard a hundred times before.

So far, what can the fans of both Tribulation and your work overall expect? Will you be making a new solo album in the future and are the preparations for the new Tribulation album already coming in order?

As I said before we're working on a new Tribulation album, so for the next 3-4 months that will be in focus. I want to make another solo album and I have a bunch of songs ready for that, so maybe that will be the next studio project once the Tribulation album is a wrap.

Thank you so much for doing this interview Joseph. I am really looking forward to seeing you perform live some day, especially with Tribulation. Are there any final words you'd like to leave for the fans?

Thank you very much and hope to see you too.

Entered: 1/16/2024 5:12:58 PM

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