2004 formed Swedish TRIBULATION’s second album "The Formulas Of Death" is already a first highlight in 2013 and a truly mind-blowing journey through Death / Thrash / Black Metal as well as spine-chilling almost proggy atmospheres that will take you into a ghostly world you might lose yourself in. I hooked up with guitarist Adam Zaars to talk a bit more about this stunning record!
Hey Adam, how are you? Ready to spread the horrors of death over Europe with KETZER, ALCHEMYST & VENENUM?
"Hello, I’m very well thank you. I have a million things to do today since we leave tomorrow but other than that, it’s all good. We are ready for sure, it’s going to be an interesting experience to see how people will receive the new songs live. Here in Sweden at least things seemed to go very well when we did the first gig with the new songs."
Let’s talk about your new opus "The Formulas Of Death" which redefines the TRIBULATION sound and clearly shows that the four years of waiting time have not been in vain nor have you been standing still on a creative level. Can you try to explain yourself why it sounds so differently than the straighter debut album?
"I think that the main reason to why it sounds different is that so much time has passed. It has been 6 years since the recording of our first album and a lot has happened in all our lives since then. We are different people today and we never felt that we had to look back in order to achieve something similar. That’s just not how we work, we would fail utterly if we tried to do something that we are not and today we are not "The Horror". We have to do things the way we want to do them, and when we do I think we achieve great things."
The first tone on the album struck me immediately like a big fat lightning as I thought "That’s THE DOORS!", also during the quieter, relaxed jam parts (e.g. in ‘Suspiria’) a lot of 60s / 70s classic Rock / Prog flair shines through making me wonder – how come?
"I know, it sure sounds like THE DOORS. Believe it or not, that wasn’t the intention! When I first started playing those chords I was completely thinking Swedish Folk music vs Rock. Then someone in the band mentioned that it sounded like THE DOORS, and I didn’t really find that problematic since I love that band. I guess it isn’t surprising since we’ve always listened to that kind of music. One of the biggest inspirations is Bo Hansson. It’s a freer way of expressing music than a lot of Metal music is, maybe that’s why it has made an impression. Our music isn’t really made for drinking beer and headbanging. I mean, by all means, do that as well but I think of it in a different way."
Was ist especially demanding to record such "proggier" parts as they are entirely new to TRIBULATION and technically more complex than just some fast Death / Thrash riffing? How can I generally imagine the recording process and rehearsals before that?
"Those elements aren’t new to us as musicians; they might just be new in the band. I have to say that I personally feel more comfortable playing the new songs than the old ones, they have a better feel to them. But it was a great experience to incorporate them into the music and finding the right sounds and everything. That’s still a challenge I think, but it worked out well on the album I think."
I really like the production due to its warm yet transparent sound. Was it easy to get the sound you wanted or did you spent a lot of time with finding the right equipment and turning the right knobs?
"We didn’t really have that much choice with the equipment since our budget was very low. We used what we have and borrowed some from friends. But yes, we spent a couple of days finding the right guitar sound. In the end I ended up playing with the distortion from the amplifier and just a little overdrive from a pedal. Very basic. Then Tore Stjerna did a lot for the sound as well while he was mixing it."
Were you relying on recording a lot of stuff in tiny bits and parts and then playing the modern copy / paste / puzzle game in the studio or did you go the "real" way?
"If we would have done it the "real" way we would have needed a lot longer in the studio. But as always we didn’t really do that much cutting and pasting. We don’t really have stuff that we can’t play. But since in our days the recorded album has become so much more important than the actual songs it’s important to get it right. A good song is still a good song but people listen to the album. It’s not like it used to be in the beginning of Pop and Rock when the song meant everything. It didn’t really matter who played it even."
How much of the "proggy" elements on "The Formulas Of Death" will you reproduce live and how do you think the new material works combined with older tunes in a live situation? Will you "look" different on stage than previously?
"I’m not sure what you mean by that, but we will try to make the songs sound pretty much as they sound on the album. I think a combination will work fine. It’s not like we don’t have distortion in the new songs or anything like that. We will look pretty much the same as we always have, with some new additions of course."
"The Formulas Of Death" to me is one of those great ambitious 2nd albums comparable to "Blessed Are The Sick", "The Astral Sleep", "Mental Funeral" or simply extremely unique and unconventional extreme Metal albums like "Reinkaos" or "Spiritual Healing". It is on fire with inspiration and creative flow, occassionally wants a bit too much yet leaves you stunned and satisfied after every spin. Has there been any particular reason or source why it turned into more than just another straight forward slab of Death Metal?
"We never had one particular moment where we decided to go in any direction, it all just happened over time. I don’t think we ever really spoke about it, we were all pretty leveled at all times. We knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t do anything that was like our first album and progression and renewal is and was a big part of the creative aspect of it all. It is in all aspects of our lives and it’s no surprise to us that it reflects into our music. We just can’t stand in line doing what people expect us to do. We see what we do as art and when you do that you can’t really think about what anyone outside of the band might say or think about what you do."
"The Horror" was 32 minutes long, "The Formulas…" now clocks over 75min – how did this interest in doing more elaborate and longer compositions come into being and was there a certain event that sparked the idea of "let’s do TRIBULATION 2.0 bigger, better, longer than everything we have done before"?
"We felt at an early stage that we didn’t care about the length of the songs and we also felt that a lot of the riffs needed space, they needed to breathe, and we let them do that. We continued doing songs until we felt that the album was finished, and when it eventually was finished it turned out to be a long album. That being said I really like long albums. I don’t listen to albums in the same way most Metal people seem to do. I don’t get bored by the music! Of course I understand the concept of "the album", and I understand that a Goregrind album might be really boring after 30 minutes, or 2 minutes if you ask me, but this isn’t that kind of music. It’s music, it can be anything! We are not writing hit songs and we don’t care what an album is supposed to be like. Who says that an album can’t be 5 hours? It’s just the way you approach it that’s the problem. You know when you go to see a movie like 1900 that you’re not there to see anything remotely like an American comedy or something like that. It’s something different."
Have any albums by other artists proved to be very influential to you guys? It seems to me you’ve spent less time with "Altars Of Madness" or "Left Hand Path" in exchange for more 70s music – do you agree?
"I can’t name a single artist like that really. I mean, I already mentioned Bo Hansson, but there are loads of different angles in this. We all listen to albums by bands like MORBID ANGEL but we don’t feel the need to incorporate that into our music, we already have that extreme Metal foundation. We are building something on top of that now! To make a generalization the core of what I still listen to now is the same as when I was 13, then there are always new stuff coming along but I don’t listen to more 70s stuff now than I did 10 years ago."
The cover art reminded me of BLACK WIDOW’s "Sacrifice" in terms of lettering, colouring – was that done intentionally?
"Not intentional, no, but I see the similarity of course."
The booklet artwork and lyrics strongly remind me of Gothic horror be it Victorian gothic like Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Henry James or the German shudder novel (E.T.A. Hoffmann, Kleist…). Have I lost it or was this a source of inspiration for your lyrics and concept?
"We didn’t have that in mind but I’m not surprised that you see it that way, that’s always with us I guess. The lyrics have very little to do with anything like that."
Rånda, a mythic woman of the forst and motif of Swedish folklore is depicted on the cover and seems to be an important element of the album if my interpretation is correct. It’s somewhat symptomatic for a way different lyrical approach compared to songs like ‘Sacrilegious Darkness’ or ‘Seduced By The Smell Of Rotten Flesh’ from the debut which were common blasphemous and violent Death Metal lyrics whereas on "Formulas…" a more subtle, gloomy and eerie, more poetic style is being used. Was reading different sorts of literature the reason for that? Did you intentionally decide to move away from standard Death Metal cliches in that matter?
"The lady on the cover isn’t specifically Rånda. It could very well be her, and I guess Rånda is an aspect of her, but to me she is someone less precise. The lyrics on the first album meant something for us and they were not always as banal as one might think when reading them for the first time, but they were nonetheless written by us when we were teenagers. I am fed up with lyrics that don’t mean anything at all. Maybe they have a purpose as well, but not to us. Most people either write lyrics containing cool words and sentences meaning nothing at all to them or they do that and pretend it truly means something to them when in fact it doesn’t. I’m not talking about everyone here obviously, but there’s a certain thing going on that once you have the right words meaning absolutely nothing then that’s all that’s needed to be accepted by "the underground", or whatever you want to call it or whatever it is. Our lyrics mean something to us. They are often used as metaphors and they may at times be ambivalent in that sense. I don’t really want to go deeper than that since my interpretation of them is my own and I let anyone see what they themselves can make out of it."
"Music from the other, music from the soul" is written in the booklet, so how much personal experiences with the other world, ghosts and the likes is present on the album?
"Music from the depths of the soul, music from The Other. Like I said, some of the lyrical contents are metaphors but other passages are more straight forward and in that we have direct experience of for example ghosts."
How did the whole album develop musically? When did you start to compose it? Did you have any relicts from the time around / shortly after "The Horror" which you scraped after realizing you were moving away from it a lot?
"I guess I have answered that to some extent. But we began writing the album in the spring of 2009 in a hotel room in Croatia just after finishing a tour. After that it was all sporadic really. We sort of wrote the album in the absence of each other in a way. Once we got together again we just got on with the new stuff and felt that we were going somewhere. It was all very natural, no one really said anything."
Did songwriting duties or the input of certain members change substantially compared to the beginnings of TRIBULATION?
"The major difference is that I wrote most of the material this time. Jonathan did some as well but he did more for the first album. But what really makes it TRIBULATION is what happens when we get together and play everything. That basically when a lot of details emerge."
In my opinion, "Formulas…" also taps more into Black Metal regions (e.g. the groovy end part of ‘Wanderer In The Outer Darkness’) would not feel out of place on a SATYRICON album) and classic Heavy / Thrash Metal making the tag "Death Metal" too tight to fully grasp your sound. How do you think about that?
"It’s funny that we always get compared to bands we’ve never heard / listened to. I don’t care about that at all. We obviously aren’t limiting ourselves to the tight area called Death Metal. It really, really doesn’t matter to us."
It took four years to put out "The Formulas…" – why? Will the next album come out sooner? Do you already have an idea where you’ll be heading on that one?
"I imagine that it will come sooner, yes. The creative spark from the studio still lingers in me and there’s already new material. We don’t know where we’re going really. That’s one of the best parts about it I think, the music will show us the way. I guess we could go anywhere as long as it feels honest to ourselves."
I know that also some bigger labels were interested in TRIBULATION, why did not you opt for that and rather remained in the safe yet somewhat limited confines of the underground? Do you simply want to secure your artistic autonomy and not commit to full blown tours and the stressful business activities you probably know all too well from your days in ENFORCER?
"We went a lot with personal chemistry actually. That might sound stupid to people, but this album became so personal and so important that we felt that everything had to be in a certain way. We sacrificed selling more albums for the right feeling. It’s not the touring really, we would never sign a contract that said that we had to do anything like that. It’s not like we don’t want to tour, because we are going to tour, but no one is going to make that decision for us. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, we might go on to a bigger label, but everything’s going to be on our terms when we do that and I guess people will know more what we are all about now when our new album is released."
One off topic question: What’s up with REPUGNANT?
"I’m going to have to ask you to ask Mary Goore about that."
Alright, I think I have stolen enough of your time, thanks for blessing us with a stunning album that is a blizzard of fresh air and surely one of my highlights in 2013. Thanks for answering and all the best!
"Thank you, we truly appreciate that a lot."
Live pics by: www.extremmetal.se