TRIBULATION "Formulas Fatal To The Ordinary"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Change is not something easily embraced within the realms of extreme metal, either by fans or bands. To be painfully honest, it is usually resisted tooth-and-nail...many are the metal "philosophers" who hate to listen to anything after 1985 or 1992 or some other line in the sand. It's paradoxical to say the least...the music most known for pushing boundaries is often encircled by them.

Occasionally, there are exceptions...Celtic Frost, Voi Vod, Nocturnus, Samael. And now we have another one. Hailing from Sweden, Tribulation is a band who have just released a very exciting and challenging album called "The Formulas of Death". The band debuted in 2009 with an excellent platter of creepy tradititonal death metal called "The Horror". Then they disappeared...until reappearing with "Formulas of Death" and a vastly more expansive musical palette. The death and thrash metal is still spades...but Tribulation is now unafraid to experiment with exotic instruments, keyboards, progressive song structures, touches of folk and more twists and turns. The result is an answer that constantly keeps your interest while retaining a dark and very heavy sound.

I had to find out more about this band, so I snagged an interview with guitarist Adam Zaars, a veteran of other bands such as Enforcer and Repugnant. His thoughtful responses did not disappoint me! Read on and take a walk on the wild side...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings to Tribulation! “The Formulas of Death” is creating a real stir in the underground. Very few bands have made a musical transition from first to second album like you have. When did you realize that you needed to expand your sound?

 ADAM ZAARS: Hello. We have always been changing and this was no exception. The only difference is, I guess, that it took quite a long time this time around and that in turn led to bigger changes, and we apparently changed quite a lot. Maybe that’s why people find the change so overwhelming. We don’t.

 WC: There was quite a long gap between “The Horror” and “Formulas of Death”. Was all of that time spent coming up with Tribulation’s new approach to metal or were other factors involved in that time off?

AZ: It was always there in the background surfacing every once in a while, but we didn’t work continuously. We all did a lot of different stuff going on unrelated to this. We lived apart for a long time and so on. We only started rehearsing the new songs like a year before the recording or something like that, actively at least. The way we approached the songwriting was also a factor that took a long time. We always waited for the basic elements of the songs to come to us, “writing” them in an unconscious way, finding the melodies in the head.

WC:  When I think of the transition you’ve made, I think of what Celtic Frost did between “To Mega Therion” and “Into the Pandemonium”. Do you think that is an apt comparison for what Tribulation has done?

AZ: Any change is comparable I guess. I wouldn’t use that example, but that’s not up to me I think.

 WC: Was there any material left off “Formulas” because it was too “out there”…or was everything on the table? I would imagine the band had some pretty intense debates during the writing of the record.

AZ: We didn’t really debate that much about where the music was going, to be honest. Everything went quite smoothly in that sense. We had some parts that we never used, but that wasn’t because they were too extreme in any direction, it was just that they didn’t fit. We don’t have any complete songs that we didn’t use. We know about our own limitations and we know where not to go, but that’s also in an ever evolving flux. We all seem to head in the same direction.

WC: It seems like a lot of metal bands have pressure to “conform” and not take risks. There’s an awful lot of “retro” Swedish death metal out there these days…did you have a lot of pressure to put out another version of “The Horror”?

AZ: We did from other people, but we don’t listen to other people so that never concerned us. People have been surprisingly supportive now that the album is out! I guess people are tired of the same old crap and they see that we can do something that is our own thing without losing it. That comes to no surprise to us since we never set out to be different, we just are. That is the difference between bands that can do a thing like this and bands that can’t.

WC: What were some of the other forms of music that inspired “Formulas” beyond metal? I sense a lot of progressive rock and even world music.

AZ: All music that touches us inspires us, and that can be any kind of music. To name a few artists that aren’t metal that in one way or another inspired us for this album I would say Bo Hansson, Popol Vuh, Fabio Frizzi, Jan Johansson, Monumentum (maybe that is some kind of metal). Any kind of music that has the atmosphere that we went for was inspiring in some way. Some Swedish folk music left a big impression as well.

WC: Where is “Formulas” coming from lyrically? On the surface, a lot of it seems to be dealing with typical metal subjects like death and magic. Is there something deeper?

AZ: There aren’t that many things I can think of that are deeper than death and magic and all the implications that go with the topics. Religion ,I guess, but that’s incorporated as well. But I guess I see where you’re coming from and the use of the topic of death can be as shallow as American Idol, and it usually is. The word has a bunch of different meanings and the one that we use it for the most is when it has the meaning of an end to something with a new beginning. Death as in transcendence and initiation. Spiritual death and rebirth. The shedding of the old and the start of something else in an ever ongoing journey. Death in the album also has the meaning of the things that are not alive, the very stuff of “the other side”. The lyrics also delve into the realms of folklore. They can be purposefully ambivalent and they are often metaphors.

WC: Is there a theme running through the whole album? I sense the songs “Spectres” and “Apparitions” are connected, since both those words mean “ghost”.

AZ: They aren’t connected more to each other than to any other songs. The “theme” is spiritual becoming, liminal space and what can be found therein and what can be gained from that.

WC: The use of sitar in “Vagina Dentata” is striking. I love this instrument…will you be taking more influence from Indian and Middle Eastern music?

AZ: It’s actually a tambura! I’m sure we’ll use it again. I like how the Indian instruments fit so nicely with Swedish folk-ish melodies. (GREAT! I don't know a sitar from a hole in the ground--Sheepish Mality)

WC:  The song “Suspiria” is notable because of its length and also because it is very mellow for most of its length. What was the story behind this track and is it directly related to the movie?

AZ: It’s only connected to the movie in that both the song and the movie took the title from the book Suspiria de Profundis (which is also the title of the song) by Thomas de Quincey. And I like the movie. The song is not based on the book either; it is an adaptation of the title alone. We used it because it fit very well to what the song is, or could, be about.

WC: The fourth track on “Formulas” is written in Hebrew. What does this stand for and how does it relate to the rest of the album?

AZ: It means NIGHT. The nighttime is of course special to us both literally and symbolically. It’s the time of the unseen and the unknown and the mysterious. The symbolical value is immense! We chose to write it in Hebrew because it paints a picture for people. It’s instrumental and thus we felt that it might as well stay anonymous for most people. It’s a chance for people to make up their own mind about what the song is about without us telling them what they are supposed to see and feel with lyrics.

WC:  There is still a lot of hard-hitting metal on the album, like “Spell” and “Wanderers In the Outer Dark”. Are you dedicated to keeping a lot of the very heavy stuff part of Tribulation or is it something that can be disposed of?

AZ: I don’t know, to be honest. Aggression is a strong feeling and sometimes I guess it comes out in the form of songs. I don’t really see that changing but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that the output of it changes. It’s still a part of the Tribulation spectrum, I think.

WC: The critical response to “Formulas” has been awesome. What has the fan response been? Have you gotten any negative feedback from fans of “The Horror”?

AZ: Both good and bad, as expected. I have to say that I’m surprised to see that so many people actually seem to get it; I thought it would take a longer time. Some people don’t want to see change; it seems to be the biggest sin you can commit. I have even heard people saying that they love the album, but they won’t listen to it because it’s not the Tribulation they once knew. Very strange. You can’t really like music when you say a thing like that. Too ingrained into the values of the subculture perhaps. We don’t fear change in any form be it musically, socially or culturally.

WC:  Is imagery still important to the band? Or is it just the music you are concerned with?

AZ: Music comes first and I’m leaning more and more to that. But the visual part is still important. I just don’t like the way that it sort of tricks people into feeling what they are supposed to feel. That’s how people work; when you say something about your music in an interview you can be sure that those words will end up in some review about the album later on. People seem unable to see past the veil of the superficial. But, what we do now is to give the listener our side of the story with the visual part and with the lyrics. Hopefully some people will just hear the music without knowing the band.

WC:  How do you see the sound of Tribulation progressing in the future? Any ideas for songs past “Formulas”?

AZ: We have started on new songs actually! It’s a slow process once again, but there is a creative spark that still lingers from the recording of the album. It’s going somewhere… but I’m not sure where. The music will lead the way this time as well!

WC: Is Tribulation active on the live front? Any chance of playing the States?

AZ: Yes, and yes! Hopefully we’ll make it over next year.

WC:  If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would you ask?

 AZ: That’s a very difficult question and the answer will probably have changed when I have answered this interview, but:


Terence McKenna

John Dee

Now I have three intelligent men (where are the ladies?) from three continents and from three different eras in history. That would be an interesting night for sure.

WC: What was the last release you purchased just because you wanted to hear it?

AZ: Iron Maiden - "En Vivo!" on picture disc. Unfortunately I can’t really listen to it because the sound is so bad due to it being a picture disc.

WC: Has there ever been any “Spinal Tap” moment for Tribulation where things went really wrong that you could share with us?

AZ: There has been a bunch of minor stuff, but nothing worth mentioning here I’m afraid. Maybe next time, we have some touring ahead of us..!

WC: Any last words for the faithful?

AZ: Break the law!