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Tribulation Live at Allston, MA’s Great Scott

Tribulation at Great Scott
Tribulation at Great Scott

2015 was a breakthrough year for Sweden’s Tribulation. The band’s third full-length, The Children of the Night, was their most visible and widely acclaimed yet, and also their most confident sonic achievement. Its nuanced, gothic heavy metal sound wore a range of influences without sounding tied too directly to any of them, and both critics and audiences responded enthusiastically. Moreover, the quartet spent plenty of time on the road with high-profile tourmates of various inclinations from Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth to Deafheaven, impressing a diverse range of crowds with deftly executed opening sets. The buzz has only continued to grow more deafening, and at last Tribulation have a chance to justify it as headliners with their fall 2016 North American tour.

Horrendous at Great Scott
Horrendous at Great Scott

Boston’s September 7 date found both the stage and the floor packed for a show that seemed to exceed the scope of its humble bar setting. Philadelphia’s Horrendous opened the night with a satisfying blast of vintage-styled death metal. The group, who are also touring an acclaimed 2015 release in Anareta, performed with ferocious drive while still frequently betraying how much fun they were having up there.

Youth Code at Great Scott
Youth Code at Great Scott

Youth Code, whose blistering electro-industrial rippers also found a home on the road with Baroness earlier this year, followed. The Los Angeles duo don’t jump out as the most conventional choice for metal tours, but their abrasive aesthetic actually translates brilliantly in that context. Vocalist Sara Taylor restlessly stalks every free inch of space barking apocalyptic lyrics while Ryan George works a table of gear into an earth-scorching frenzy. The results are arresting, even if they’re not what you came to see (although, as with the Baroness show, Youth Code clearly did pull in a few diehard audience members of their own).

Tribulation at Great Scott
Tribulation at Great Scott

Following a slight delay and an agreeably shuffled thrash playlist over the PA, Tribulation emerged in trademark makeup and stormed into Children of the Night opener “Strange Gateways Beckon.” Their staging was dramatic, with ultraviolet lights illuminating guitarists Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hultén as they stared down the audience and prowled the stage with an eerie sort of grace. Bassist and vocalist Johannes Andersson handled the formal interactions, expressing his excitement to finally deliver a full-length set in Boston (where by my count Tribulation have played as openers at least three times in the past two years).

The expanded timeslot gave the band an opportunity to deliver a more well-rounded overview of their strengths. A solid half of Children of the Night sounded polished and powerful, and some of the lengthier selections from 2013’s The Formulas of Death highlighted the group’s most adventurous genre-blending. Lest anyone forget their death metal roots, they ripped through a brutalizing take on “Seduced by the Smell of Rotting Fish” from their 2009 debut The Horror for good measure.

With a well-paced hour-plus set, Tribulation confidently made the leap to headliner status. Formulas and Children have the slightest tendency to meander, but the band’s live show is all kinetic energy that brings out the best in the material. They have the style, the songs and the presentation to make it much bigger than Great Scott; Don’t be surprised to see them do so in the next few years.

Horrendous

Youth Code

Tribulation

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