TRIBULATION – Hamartia
RELEASE YEAR: 2023
BAND URL: https://www.tribulation.se/
I remember once listening to The Formulas Of Death²⁰¹³ and later The Children Of The Night²⁰¹⁵ (which came out after The Horror²⁰⁰⁹, the debut after 5 years from Tribulation’s conception) and praising the melodic death metal the founders Johannes Andersson (bass, vocals) and Paul Adam “Zaars” Zars (guitars) then presented and, while I can’t remember what they sounded like I do remember how remarkably skilled they were at both the melodic and songwriting aspect, to say nothing of the flawless execution. As it turned out I never got a chance to hear Down Below²⁰¹⁸ or Where The Gloom Becomes Sound²⁰²¹ and compare their sound after the addition of Erik Nils Oscar Leander (2017-drums) or Josef “Joseph” Tholl (2020-guitars) who are now current members of this Swedish quartet. Yet when I was given a chance to review their new EP Hamartia I took it upon hearing the perfect opening title track and then realizing that Tribulation 2023 has much more to do with gothic, dark, progressive and even industrial metal than just melodeath.
The title track, which seems to be aimed at the religious who still “miss the mark” (an euphemism for “sin”, in fact, its Biblical definition) but call themselves “forgiven and therefore no longer sinners”, is named after the Greek word which Biblically means “a sin offering” but is in almost every English (and Polish) version of the Bible improperly translated as “sin”. Tribulation, who clearly seem to be well versed in the Bible as behooves a band with a Biblical name, could have lifted the word from 2 Corinthians 5:21 which reads “He made him who did not know sin to be a sin offering (hamartia) on our behalf, so that, through union with him, we would become the righteousness of God” (REV). Interestingly, judging from the album cover, Tribulation apparently have the correct understanding of “hamartia” to spite mainstream Christianity which believes incorrectly that the Son Of God was made sin, which, I freely admit, I can’t imagine even God being able to do: turn a human being into sin. Tribulation correctly asserts that “we’re all sinners” and that includes every single Christian, whether or not they’re willing to admit it. “By their fruitless efforts are they blessed with regeneration?” asks Andersson who brilliantly summarizes the problem with those who think and teach either that they have already been saved or that they can save themselves, “at the roots of your ideal there is a lesion, an insult to the sanctitude of life, could not the fall be a part of our completion? If not it’s at the heart of our strife”. The title track, then, sets the tone for this bitter yet Biblically accurate EP.
The “Blood Mountain” Mastodonic riffs of “Axis Mundi” usher in a decidedly more progressive melodeathly sounds, evocative of Projector or Haven Dark Tranquillity, and, in fact, Andersson’s raspy vocals do resemble Mikael Stanne, but, in the end, this is another flawless track of stupifying and seemingly effortless musical prowess, while, at the same time, a step above the opening cut, almost certainly on purpose. Lyrically, Tribulation may be alluding to Psalm 104:5 which says that God set the Earth on foundations which cannot be easily shaken until He decides it no longer applies so man, religious or not, is powerless to change its course, but Tribulation seems to use that to assert that the religious fundamentally change nothing on the Earth and their own estimates of their healing influence are greatly exaggerated.
The third and the final original Tribulation cut, “Hemoclysm”, is the longest, the most progressive and even bluessy, but I’d still wouldn’t be surprised to hear it on a Dark Tranquillity record as it starts like like “Auctioned”. However, the song has more to do with Tool (BASS!), the aforementioned Mastodon as well as Arcturus from that weirdly brilliant La Masquerade Infernale record. It is at this point that, Biblically versed and accurate they may be, Tribulation reveal themselves as scoffers of faith fully and unmistakeably as they seem to mock Jesus Christ’s Sermon On The Mount promises with “as there’s nothing that is fair, we can crush it and erect a hollow shrine with our conceit, we omit the sacred threads of an earth we won’t inherit, no, the world we know is not for the meek” but the irony is not lost on me because Christ never promised that the meek will inherit the Earth in this present evil age but in the one that is yet to come. The early Apostles had conveyed exactly the same before they were thwarted by the I and II Century church leaders who thoroughly perverted the Scripture to serve their own wicked agenda making themselves comfortable in this present evil age that today has little to do with Christ or his and our God and Father.
The final track is an absolutely mindblowing metal rendition of Blue Öyster Cult Vengeance (The Pact), and here I must admit something I rarely do, the perfect place for a cover which enhances the record rather than artificially prolongs the duration of a record which, at 22:03, is still longer than most hardcore full lengths. Most interestingly, the normally raspy deathly Andersson here gets dreamy clean which, evidently, he should do more often on Tribulation regular albums.
Hamartia EP is a perfect record about pointlessness and futility of faith in faith itself which mainstream modern Christianity seems to be all about. There’s not a doggone flaw for its 4 tracks and I don’t say that lightly because it’s my first 6/6 in a long while. I do believe, however, that once you listen to it, you’ll wholeheartedly agree.