In February’s Black Market, I wrote about “In The Dreams Of The Dead,” the first single released off The Children Of The Night, the forthcoming third LP from Swedish metal band Tribulation. As I said in my writeup, The Children Of The Night is an early leader for my AOTY pick, and my opinion on that score hasn’t changed since February. The album has a run of songs in its second half that achieves something close to perfection, and track 6, “The Motherhood Of God,” kicks off that run. Today, “The Motherhood Of God” is released as the album’s second single, and you should listen to it because it’s fucking incredible. Below that is my initial writeup of The Children Of The Night, which better illustrates my enthusiasm for the album. Check it out.
Here’s what I had to say about the record:
I won’t pull any punches: Tribulation’s upcoming album, The Children Of The Night, is the best album I’ve heard this year by what feels like an insurmountable margin. I know it’s really early — even when the record is actually released, we’ll still have two-thirds of 2015 ahead of us — and I can’t say I won’t eventually hear something I like more, or that I won’t at some point have played The Children Of The Night so many times that it loses some of its immediacy and glow. But even if it slips (and, frankly, I’ll be surprised if it does), it won’t slip much. The Children Of The Night is almost an objectively great album — like, say, Master Of Puppets — and even when I know its hooks by heart, I’ll never be able to unhear that greatness.
But I’m getting ahead of myself; this thing doesn’t actually arrive till April. So let me backtrack a bit to get us up to today. Tribulation’s family tree has some pretty tangled roots, so I’ll try to clarify only as much as necessary to adequately chronicle their evolution. The band started life in 2001 as Hazard, playing thrash metal. Hazard splintered in 2004: Vocalist Olof Wikstrand and his younger brother, drummer Jonas Wikstrand, went on to form Enforcer (who are, coincidentally, also featured in this month’s Black Market), while Hazard’s guitarists, Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hultén, along with bassist Johannes Andersson, took on the handle Tribulation, with Andersson assuming vocal duties for the new band. (There’s some additional overlap between the two groups: Olof Wikstrand was Tribulation’s vocalist in their very earliest incarnation, while Zaars played guitar with Enforcer from 2006 – 2011.)
Tribulation’s first two releases — 2006’s Putrid Rebirth EP and 2009’s The Horror LP — are very good examples of a young band playing in a deliberately rigid retro style: old-school death metal. But on their last LP, 2013’s The Formulas Of Death, Tribulation largely abandoned the orthodoxy in favor of a deeply drugged-out, progressive approach to the genre (not unlike the move made a year later by countrymen Morbus Chron on that band’s mind-bending Sweven). The Formulas Of Death is a pretty great record, and if Tribulation had continued to pursue that path — getting weirder, further shunning tradition and form — they would have surely made another pretty great record.
Instead, they decided “pretty great” wasn’t good enough: Tribulation focused their experimental tendencies, building them into or around or atop songs that were equally ambitious. Or maybe the songs grew from the experimentation; it’s impossible to say. The final product, The Children Of The Night, reveals no seams, no traces of its process. It is fully formed upon arrival, and it is a flawless, breathtaking work. It’s like the Chrysler Building: It looks like a gigantic fucking jewel in the sky — it is a ridiculously beautiful and otherworldly piece of art amid a skyline of gray sameness — but it is also a goddamn building — a thing of structure and stone that has stood for nearly a century and will stand for centuries to come. In total, The Children Of The Night comprises 10 songs and comes in at some 57 minutes, and there is not a wasted second. Every song has a hook (or several) that might be the best hook I’ve heard this year. Every song has an Olympian guitar lead. The progressions throughout are totally unexpected and always satisfying. It almost feels like a miracle.
There are plenty of reference points here — Gothenburg death metal, Swedish black metal of the Dissection/Watain school, Agalloch, Deep Purple, Mercyful Fate, John Carpenter, Goblin, Pink Floyd — but none of them adequately conjure the immense spectrum or spectacle of The Children Of The Night. I’ll put it this way, and this is the best way I can put it: I listen to so many albums every year that I can’t begin to count them all, much less remember them all. Hearing something like The Children Of The Night is the reward I get for listening to all those records, the reason I listen to all those records. I find a lot of worthless rocks and of course some gems, but it’s pretty rare that I come across a diamond like this.
The Children Of The Night is out 4/14 via Century Media.