Tribulation: creators of the night

Tribulation 2015

Although the Swedish melodic death metal scene has been saturated for almost two decades now, new bands still manage to emerge and, more importantly, to set themselves apart by doing things their own way. This is the case with Tribulation, whose third album, The Children Of The Night, released this year, manages to be refreshing and to offer atmospheres that are at once nocturnal and colorful.

We have talked to Adam Zaars, the band’s guitarist and mastermind, to know more about the record, but also, more generally, about a talented combo that deserves to draw more attention in the years to come. Adam told us how you can make new-sounding music while staying old school (which seems a bit contradictory at first), and delved into a theme close to Tribulation’s heart: religion and spirituality. The man, who calls himself a believer, outlines a vision of spirituality far removed from what we’re used to hearing. Tribulation are most definitely a band that make their own way.

Tribulation 2015

« Music to me is very ethereal, very strange. I mean, when you really think about what music is, it’s a very, very strange phenomenon. »

Radio Metal: You were quoted saying that this new album « takes off where The Formulas Of Death ended ». Is it something that you did consciously?

Adam Zaars (guitar): No, not really. I’d say it just happened, it’s the way we write music, I think. And what I meant with that is that I think the last songs that we did for the previous album could have easily fit on this new album, at least some of them. And I’m thinking especially of “Rånda”, “Ultra Silvam” and “Apparitions”, the ending of the previous album. I guess the step isn’t that far when you see it in that context.

The album was recorded in several different Swedish studio locations (Studio Gröndahl, Honk Palace, Studio Cobra, Necromantic Studios and The Resting Stone). Is there a specific reason to that?

Yes, various reasons. The first one is a financial reason. We had one studio where we recorded the drums, and we needed that studio because of the drum room that’s supposedly a very good one, I don’t know anything about it but… But that studio turned out to be very expansive, so we couldn’t stay there. So we went somewhere we could afford and we ended up in Nicke Andersson’s basement, he’s got a new studio called Honk Palace there. We recorded the guitars, bass and vocals in there. And then we also needed a studio that had all the additional instruments that we needed, because there are a lot of them on the new album. Our producer, Ola Ersfjord, made it all happen. I’d say it was a good thing for the recording because we could really take everything in stages. We had something to look forward to, all the time, and we never got tired of sitting in the same room for a month and so forth and so on. It sounds like a hassle but it was really a good thing I think.

How did you maintain de consistency in the recordings by changing so many times the environment during the process?

I thought about that before we did it actually: “Will we lose the feeling of the recording?” But we didn’t. I’d say, actually, that it deepened in each studio. And the most inspiring studio was the last one because we had everything finished, all the guitars, bass, drums and vocals, so basically the rock n’ roll part of it was finished, and then we could just be very, very creative with all these fantastic instruments. So I just think that the consistency deepened with each change of studio.

This new album is called The Children Of The Night. Could this be actually how you would define yourself, as children of the night?

In the context of Tribulation, yes. We are the children of the night, but I think that anyone who listens to the album, or even participates in the album, sort of, anyone that feels a connection to the album, I guess, is a child of the night. I mean, it’s quite an abstract title; it doesn’t refer to the wolves as they do in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s bigger than that, I’d say, and we needed a title like that to be able to encompass the whole album, rather than one specific line of lyrics or to just take the name of a song; we needed a bigger title than that. And at first, I’d say that the title felt quite bland, it felt like a cliché, but after having it and thinking about it for a week or so, we all felt that, in this context, for whatever reason, it felt very right. So, as we always do in Tribulation, we followed our intuition and said: “Let’s go! This is the one.” And I think we made the right choice.

What is a child of the night in your mind, actually?

In the context of Tribulation, we are always writing about the darker sides of religion and of our spirituality, and the music itself is very dark to me, so the night is of course a symbol of that darkness. And that’s where all the inspiration for the music comes from, that source or that feeling. That’s what the nighttime is to me, at least. It’s a source of never-ending inspiration. And it’s quite hard to define I think but it’s something that you feel.

You said that you were children of the night in the context of the band, does that mean that you’re different in the everyday life compared to in the context of the band?

No, not at all, really. I mean, I’m not the same person to the same extent when I’m with Tribulation that I am when I am with my son, you know. It’s a part of us, it’s not something we put on when we’re in Tribulation but we put more emphasis on it. What we’re doing here is some kind of art. It’s like when we’re on stage, it’s an extension of our personality that you see on stage. It’s not a charade or anything. People have many sides, I’d say, and this is a side of us, not put to the extreme but emphasized.

Tribulation - The Children Of_The Night

« I believe in every religion, really, I think they can all be meaningful tools. […] You can speak the Hindu language or you can speak the Christian language but in the end it’s sort of the same thing, »

You once said that « most of [your] lyrics are about the experience of transcending the mundane world as we know it, approaching the divine or whatever you choose to call it.” Can you tell us more on your own experience of spirituality? How is it important in your own life and to the band?

It’s important in my life, yes it is. I mean, art and religion are my two big things in life. So it is important. But in Tribulation it doesn’t necessarily have to do with our own personal experiences. In part it does, but it’s something that we’ve always felt we had to have in the lyrics to the music because it’s, like I said, where this music comes from. It feels like it comes from a very dark place, in a sense. Music to me is very ethereal, very strange. I mean, when you really think about what music is, it’s a very, very strange phenomenon. It’s just different sounds and noises that we put in a certain sequence and that can make us cry, that can make us remember something from our childhood, it can make us travel through time, sort of, it can do anything. That’s the beauty of music. I mean, that’s very abstract and that’s what I feel our lyrics reflect, in that sense, because I never really see us writing about, you know, casual violence or politics. I mean, we could and there’s nothing wrong with that but in Tribulation that’s just never been an option. We want to keep it on a more abstract plane, really.

Can you tell me more about your spiritual beliefs that we can actually hear or read in your music?

Well, I guess I can say some of it, but it’s not… I mean, I’m just one member of the band and we’re four different individuals with different beliefs, so it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the music. It does to some extent. I mean, on the new album I wrote half of the lyrics and half of the songs. But, like I said before, the lyrics of Tribulation that I write are very personal to me but they’re also put in the context of Tribulation, which is quite important because there are other sides of it. But what can I say about my own beliefs? It’s a never-ending journey, I’d say, a never-ending search. I’ve never felt that I fit into a certain religion. Christianity didn’t do it, you know. I guess that what I feel the most at home is an Indian religion, especially Hinduism but I’m not a Hindu. I just think that religion is something that you can choose. I believe in every religion, really, I think they can all be meaningful tools. I mean, a religion is sort of a language that you can speak. You can speak the Hindu language or you can speak the Christian language but in the end it’s sort of the same thing, you end up in the same place I think. And I’ve never really, and I don’t think I will, find the perfect place. But I do base my philosophy a lot in certain… It’s difficult to say… I was about to say in certain Indian philosophies but there are so many of them! [Chuckles] So it’s quite superficial to say it like that. But I guess you can say that I’m certainly not an atheist and I’m not an agnostic. I’m religious but I don’t adhere to one religion.

That actually goes a little bit against what we usually see or hear in metal because there seems to be a lot of atheists or agnostics in metal, and metal musicians and fans are often against religions…

Yeah, but I am against organized religions as well, to a certain extent, because… I mean, people have a right to choose whatever they want, I think, and I’m not against people choosing to go to church or to a synagogue or a mosque, or whatever they want to do. It’s the politics of religions that’s horrible. It’s the crimes of religions that are horrible. It’s not the beliefs. It’s the action of certain religious people that are horrible. And I’m as against that as anyone else. I really think that religion or spirituality has taken a beating in the modern age because of that, and I think people forget that it can actually be something else. It doesn’t have to be terrorists Muslims or Catholic priests raping little boys, that’s the very, very ugly part of it. So, I’m not against religion but I’m against everything that an atheist, I guess, would be against as well.

In your music there seems to be a sort of duality of thematic of horror and religion. Do you think these are linked somehow?

Yeah, in a way they are, in Tribulation at least. I mean, the horror aspect really comes from the music itself, I’d say, because we don’t write about horror movies. We may use some language, again, that can be borrowed from gothic literature or horror in general, but the horror aspect really comes from the music itself. That’s what I hear when I listen to the music. On the first album, we actually did write about some horror movies, but the feeling and the imagery is still there and what we are actually writing about is, not only religion but spiritual topics, I guess. I don’t know a proper word for it really [chuckles].

Tribulation 2015

« There’s nothing that says that we can’t write an album today that sounds like 64, 74 or 84 and still sound fresh because there are a lot of roads to go down in this kind of music. »

We talked with At The Gate’s singer Tomas Lindberg and he mentioned Tribulation as an example of a band who manages to have an old school feel but at the same time is progressing and doing new stuff. Do you agree with that description?

Yeah, I do! I do! And I’m glad to hear that the said that! If we’re aiming at something, we’re aiming at that. It’s a very, very natural thing for us because all of the music that we listen to is considered old school. But we don’t want to copy anyone. We want to create art. We want to do something of our own. So I think it’s a very natural consequence of the attitude that we have in the band, really.

Actually being a band that stays true to the old school while still being up to date might sound contradictory to some people. Do you think that’s possible?

Yeah, I do because what’s up to date? Is it having triggered drums and an extreme amount of distortion on the guitars? Some people would say yeah, that’s the modern way to do it. I mean, it’s not really that difficult to sound old school or whatever. But I think it’s just a fitting description of the band and it’s a natural consequence. I don’t really care about it [chuckles]. But I do think it’s possible because it’s like any of the old bands, whoever they are… Of course they could’ve written different albums that the ones that they actually wrote… [Hesitating] Well, what I’m saying is, yeah, I think an album could have been written in 84 and it could have still sounded different, and there’s nothing that says that we can’t write an album today that sounds like 64, 74 or 84 and still sound fresh because there are a lot of roads to go down in this kind of music, I think. Some of them have been made to death but if you really try and make something of your own, and try to focus as littlest as possible on what’s going on around you, yeah, I think you definitely can… I mean, it’s bound to be something else, something new, but it can still stand from an old school source.

In the press release it’s mentioned how your music is “broad enough to encompass the likes of Dissection, The Misfits, Iron Maiden, The Doors and Type O Negative.” And we do hear a great diversity in your music. Is it important for you to make music that is not just one-dimensional?

Yeah, I don’t think we could do music that is one-dimensional, and that why it’s important for us. It’s just something that happens. There’s not really that much more to it. This isn’t something that we plan or analyze to death. It’s just something that we did and that’s all, really. And I think that’s the reason why it sounds the way it does: we didn’t plan on sounding a certain way. It just happened to be that way.

You play death metal, but you actually don’t listen that much to that type of music, and you even said that « when death metal isn’t creative it might be the dullest genre there is. » Can you explain this paradox to us, and the relationship you have with that musical genre?

Well, I think I have the same relationship to any genre, really, because they can all be very, very boring. I listen to death metal but I only listen to a few bands. But I only listen to a few bands of black metal, thrash metal, doom metal and so on as well. It’s not that death metal is the most boring one. But some of what is considered to be death metal just isn’t the type of music that I listen to. I mean, I listen to Morbid Angel, that’s death metal to me! Like I said, it doesn’t really matter that it’s death metal. If it’s good music, I’m going to listen to it and it doesn’t necessarily have to be metal at all. If I like, I like it, and some death metal bands are really good.

You said during an interview: “I hope we never find our sound”. That pretty much goes against what most of the others bands are looking for. Do you think that whenever you begin to have automatisms in the writing and the sound, that means the creativity is gone?

Not necessarily but I think that’s the case for us because this is what we’ve been doing now for eleven years and we’ve constantly been changing. Personally, I think it’s been getting better and better all the time and if we did another album that sounds exactly like this one, I would find it very boring! I get tired of things! I get bored with things and I would get bored with Tribulation if we did two albums that sounded the same, and I wouldn’t want to get bored by our music [chuckles]. I don’t know, I think our creativity would… I think we would be lazy if we did another album that sounded the same and I don’t want to be lazy, I want to be active.

Tribulation 2015

« I would get bored with Tribulation if we did two albums that sounded the same, and I wouldn’t want to get bored by our music [chuckles]. »

You also once said that « [you] always get compared to bands that [you] don’t listen to » and you seemed pretty annoyed by that, saying: « come on, are people so imbedded in their own cultural pattern that they can’t even take a beat for what it is? It’s a beat! It’s got nothing to do with any style of music, it’s just a beat. » Do you think that people are so afraid of what’s different that they try desperately to find a comparison that they can relate to?

Sometimes that is definitely the case but… I don’t really care what we get compared to but it is true that, in interviews especially I hear “I can really tell that you’ve been listening to this and this and this band…” and most of the times I’ve never heard those bands! About the second part of the question, people in general are afraid of change. I mean, you can see it anywhere. You can see it in the European politics nowadays. Something is happening and people are freaking out! [Chuckles] So yeah, I think people are afraid of change in general. The change is something new, it’s a threat to something that they’re used to.

And do you think that people are limiting themselves by always trying to compare?

In a way, I think so. I mean, I’ve been doing it myself my whole life! [Chuckles] I’m not an exception. I can only speak for myself but when I do realize that: “Oh, this is stupid! I don’t listen to this music because of this thing that I felt ten years ago…” If you drop that and try to listen to some new music, chances are that you might like it! That’s at least what I do nowadays: I often give music a second chance, and it’s not always good [chuckles]. I mean, sometimes the music just is bad but sometimes you find new music and why wouldn’t you want new music in your life? That’s what I feel.

You just mentioned how people are afraid of change, and you mentioned Morbid Angel and I know that you’re a very big fan of the Altar Of Madness album, so what did you think of the last Morbid Angel album, « Illud Divinum Insanus », that was so criticized by the fans and almost everyone?

[Chuckles] I haven’t heard it. I actually stayed away from it! So there you go! That’s me being afraid of change, Right? [Chuckles]

Your music is very epic, progressive and diverse and gives to the listener a very cinematic experience. Is writing music like writing a story for you?

A wordless story, yeah, in a sense. I mean, hopefully it can take you places and show you things when listening to it. So in a way it is like writing a journey: I want a beginning and I want an end. I want you to escape while listening to it. I want it to take you somewhere. So, yeah, I guess it is sort of a story, in that sense.

Interview conducted by phone 2th, april 2015 by Nicolas Gricourt.
Retranscription, traduction and introduction: Nicolas Gricourt.
Questions: Nicolas Gricourt & Philippe Sliwa.
Promo pics: Linda Åkerberg.

Tribulation official website: www.tribulation.se.

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