Swedish death sorcerers Tribulation are currently touring North America with Cannibal Corpse, Behemoth and Aeon (see our live review here). CVLT Nation sat down with guitarist Adam Zaars and bassist/vocalist Johannes Andersson in their dimly-lit tour bus to discuss their new album and the driving forces behind their unparalleled experimentation with death metal.
How’s the tour going?
Good, very good. It’s a big tour for us to be on, the biggest we’ve been on actually. It’s very different, because we don’t really sound like the other bands. We toured with Watain last year and I guess that tour actually fit us a bit better, but that’s the beauty of this tour. We get to play to a lot of people, many of whom haven’t heard us before. Gaining new fans is awesome.
And you’re even playing some US headlining shows during this tour.
We had Portland last night, which was a last minute show only announced two weeks ago. The turnout was…poor, but it was cool anyway. And we have two more, one in Vermont and one in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is further down the line, so hopefully the turnout will be better.
Photo by Sara Power
A little about your history – before Tribulation existed you were a thrash band called Hazard.
Yeah, we always separate the two bands. The first band was the three of us with the exception of our drummer, and we had the drummer and singer from Enforcer [Olof and Jonas Wikstrand], so that band sort of developed into Tribulation and Enforcer separately.
So did that split happen because you guys wanted to play death metal and they wanted to play heavy metal?
Yeah, that’s what we wanted. We wanted to do something new and more extreme. Thrash metal was only a thing for us for about a year and then our interest faded in the music and we wanted to do something else. But they are still good friends of ours and we always see them around, and I used to play in Enforcer. They’re really great guys.
The Horror and The Formulas of Death are both incredible death metal albums, but they’re very different. Was it a conscious choice to change your sound so dramatically?
We recorded the first one in 2007, which was a long time ago. We were all kids at the time, just 18 or 19. And when we recorded the second one, we were six years older, and I guess in those years things happened. We were all divided and we didn’t really play that much. I was doing Enforcer, and they were all doing other stuff. Tribulation really started to become a real band when we started working on the second album. But no, I wouldn’t say we chose to do something different. Subconsciously, maybe, but on Formulas we just wrote it, rehearsed it and only then realized what we had made. And I guess that’s the same with the new album. There’s no direction, it just happens. And if it doesn’t just happen, I don’t think we would actually want to make another album. I hope we never find “our sound.” We want to keep exploring and keep the creativity. We can’t go too far; like, singing with clean vocals – that wouldn’t be Tribulation anymore. There’s a limit, I think, but under that limit there’s an ocean to explore.
Photo by Sara Power
So, with that said, what can we expect from The Children of The Night?
It’s more like Formulas than The Horror, and maybe even one more step in that direction. But quite an unexpected step, in some ways. I can imagine us going down an even more ambient or more psychedelic route. The people we have played it for say they can clearly hear Tribulation, but part of me is like “Did we go too far?” But I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet, we only got the last master the day before the tour and I’ve only listened to it here on the bus. In a way, it feels like we’re still recording it since it’s not out yet. It’s another step, but I would say the change is more… “traditional” I guess is a word you can use. Streamlined, maybe. I don’t want to say the words “heavy metal,” but it’s a bit more heavy metal, I think. That may lead whoever’s reading this in the wrong direction, but I think that’s one way of describing it.
I find a lot of parallels with you and Morbus Chron. They’re also a Swedish death metal band who had an old school sounding debut and a more progressive and psychedelic second album. Do you think that’s a reaction to how popular the old school sound has become in recent years?
Yeah, the old school scene has been like this for ten years now. When we started, that’s what we wanted to sound like: Morbid Angel or other classic bands. I think that’s still going on, which is cool. If people make great death metal, that’s great. We haven’t been trying to do that since 2008 or so. I got that question the other day, asking if what we see we’re doing as death metal, and maybe not anymore. I don’t care if people say we play it or not, but I think that we’re doing something else. With the new album, it’s difficult to call it death metal like that. Cannibal Corpse plays death metal, they are death metal.
So then what do you think of the Swedish metal scene overall? There seems to be a lot more interest in the early days, especially with bands like At The Gates reforming.
Again, it’s been like that forever. But when we started Enforcer, only a few bands were doing heavy metal, and same with Hazard and thrash metal. We were only 12 or 13, and we didn’t know of any bands in Sweden doing thrash metal like that. I guess that’s when the “thrash boom,” or whatever you want to call it, happened. We seem to always sort of find the trends before they appear. It’s cool, I think it’s a great thing to play new music based on something older, because it can be forgotten otherwise. People surely listen to Iron Maiden a lot, but you can still make cool music that sounds like anything. The 60s, 70s and 80s are a treasure trove of inspiration.
Photo by Sara Power
The way I look at it is that it’s a reaction to so many modern bands who just try to play as fast and technically as possible without writing any good songs.
Yes, and that’s another way of making music, I guess. It’s more impressive than good. If you like that music, then you like that music, but it’s not interesting for us. But the old school scene is both good and bad, because a lot of crappy bands also appear, and a lot of copycats, of course. It’s inevitable, so maybe it’s not a bad thing; I try to view it as positively as possible, even though I don’t listen to a lot of bands like that. But I still think it’s cool.
Your lyrics are inspired by a lot of horror movies.
Yes, especially on the first album. We try to keep horror present all the time, but our lyrics on the second album and the new one are not really inspired by horror movies. We like to keep the idea of horror lingering, I feel it in our music so it is always present. Definitely the first album was more about horror movies, but even then it was more symbolic than just writing about The Omen, which we did.
Photo by Sara Power
So what inspires you currently?
Everything, nothing. I wish I had a straight answer. Lyrically, the very vague term “darkness” and whatever that represents. Religion, always. And again, horror. Not so much movies, but just the idea of horror. The ideal, romantic beauty of death and darkness is a very big part of the band.
Congratulations on getting signed to Century Media, how has it changed things for you?
It’s still fresh, but so far so good. We actually could have done this earlier, we got the offer for the last album, but we wanted to do it on Invictus Productions in Ireland because it felt right at the time. We always follow our intuition, and maybe it’s wrong, but it felt right and it was a good move. But this time we needed something else and it’s been very good. It’s easier for us to do interviews like this and reach out to fans, so I have a good feeling about it.
You’re doing this tour and you’re playing some of the big European festivals this summer – what else is in your future?
The album comes out on April 10th, and we’ll be playing the Netherlands before that and then two release shows in Sweden, one in Stockholm and one in Gothenburg. You mentioned At The Gates, we’ll be playing with them in Sweden which is very cool. Then a European tour with Melechesh and Keep of Kalessin in May, which is almost as long as this one. And hopefully back here soon. This tour was very bad timing, actually, but we couldn’t say no to it – but we’re here and it’s good. It’s one last chance to play some of the older songs, so we had to do it.
The Children of The Night comes out April 10th on Century Media and can be pre-ordered here.