Swedish goth-rock band Tribulation defies labels in new tour

Walker Discoe

Tribulation is a band characterized by slow, heavy guitar, a crescendo of roaring drums and the muddy, fierce vocals typically associated with Scandinavian death metal.

The band’s newest release, “Down Below,” continues this legacy at extreme volume, blowing out speakers and eardrums across North America on their sixth U.S. tour to date.

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Jonathan Hulten, one of the band’s two guitar players, founded the band Hazard in 2001, which later went on to become Tribulation.

“We all had always wanted to release an album, get a record contract, sign a deal and get out there touring,” Hulten said. “And when we found success, and things went well for us, we all saw it as our natural development.”

Hulten said the change from amateur to professional came as no surprise.

Their success is perhaps a product of the band’s unwillingness to be defined or constrained to a single genre, Hulten said.

“Our music has just continued to develop,” Hulten said. “So, I would say that our first album we were definitely worth calling a death metal band. Not specifically, we were a mix between many things, but with this album, Down Below, it’s just not necessary to categorize it. It’s metal, it’s rock, it’s dark.”

We always wanted to go here. I think generally as it is looked upon in Europe, it’s that if you go to America, then you’re a successful band. That’s not always necessarily the case, it’s as much as a struggle anywhere. Touring in North America has been so much more fun, more rewarding, mostly due to the sense of adventure.”  Jonathan Hulten, founder of the band Tribulation

Darkness is a significant theme that carries throughout Tribulation’s music through the many styles of metal they produce.

“Scandinavian death metal is much more groovy, more bluesy, more slow and certainly more dark,” Hulten said. “It’s been there all the time, and a lot of the influences we had as kids have transformed into other shapes, but the interest in darkness has always been there. And it’s still there.”

Now on their sixth U.S. tour, Hulten explained the allure of the American experience and the ethos of the North American metal show.

“We always wanted to go here,” Hulten said. “I think generally as it is looked upon in Europe, it’s that if you go to America, then you’re a successful band. That’s not always necessarily the case, it’s as much as a struggle anywhere. Touring in North America has been so much more fun, more rewarding, mostly due to the sense of adventure.”

Another significant aspect of Tribulation’s music and performances is their style, face painting and clothing.

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“Coming originally from the Scandinavian black death metal scene, so [face painting] was something that was very common, and it was something that we saw all the time,” Hulten said. “When we actually started to emulate that it was actually in the veins of the Misfits, more American influences. And of course, Kiss was there as well.”

For some, the heavy nature and shockingly dark nature of a band like Tribulation can be off-putting and disconcerting. Someone who isn’t already into death metal, heavy rock or punk rock may hear albums such as “Down Below” and immediately think “This isn’t for me.”

Hulten disagrees.

“It’s always easier to refer to other bands, bands that most people have heard and can relate to,” Hulten said. “But I would say that if you like rock, and you don’t mind growling, screaming vocals, but you are into classic rock or more traditional American rock, then this might be worth checking out. Usually, the case is someone hears the growling vocals, and they want more audible ones, like singing. But you get used to it, and that goes for all music. You just need to learn how to listen to it and learn what you like about it.

While Hulten and the rest of the band continue their North American tour, anyone can explore a new genre of music and disappoint their mother by listening to Tribulation on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube or most anywhere music is found.

For more information about the band and about tour dates visit Tibulation’s Facebook page

Walker Discoe can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @wdiscoe.