Tribulation on Their New EP “Hamartia” and Forging New Paths (Interview)
Swedish gothic metal stalwarts Tribulation return with their new EP Hamartia, a four-track sample including three new songs plus an excellent Blue Öyster Cult cover. The EP acts as a snapshot into what the band sound like since Jonathan Hulten left and was replaced by Joseph Tholl (ex-Enforcer, ex-Black Trip). It has been two years since their last full-length Where The Gloom Becomes Sound released, and Hulten leaving the band before the last album even dropped left Tribulation in such a weird spot that they nearly parted ways for good. Having played almost exclusively in Europe save for three dates that included an appearance at last year’s Psycho Las Vegas, Tribulation have spent a good portion of the last few years getting grounded while writing new music where they see fit.
I spoke to guitarists Adam Zaars and the aforementioned Tholl about a lack of tour life during the pandemic and what the particular inspiration was for their choice of cover song on the EP. We also spoke at length about what specifically the addition of Tholl brings to the table as both a new member and fan of the band’s previous works and where inspiration for the next, album, which is currently being written, will take the band stylistically.
I know it has been a while since you’ve released more than a single; a lot has happened since the last full-length Where The Gloom Becomes Sound came out. Jonathan Hulten left and the band has continued. How has everything been with this transitional phase over the last two-plus years?
Adam Zaars: It’s been strange, of course, due to the pandemic, and that kind of changed everything for the band as well. That’s had the biggest impact on everything we’ve done. This EP that we are releasing now and the singles are a result of Jonathan leaving and the pandemic, since we couldn’t tour the latest album. That’s what we kept ourselves busy with, and we didn’t want to write a new album since we had just released one. A lot of bands did livestreams, but it never felt quite right for us, so we did this instead. We had a few festivals and a Western European tour.
I hear it has been tougher than ever for European bands to get over here. Is that true?
Joseph Tholl: I hear people say that all the time; all the bands are complaining about that. The other way around is tough as well.
AZ: We managed to get over and played Psycho (Las Vegas), Los Angeles, and San Diego. We managed to do that at least. Hopefully we can get back in the country and do it again.
I’m glad you were able to get over here and play with the new lineup. I saw in some interviews that a full tour would be tough, but new music is on the table.
AZ: We wanted to do something small in terms of the EP so we could see what the songwriting process would be like, and we have slowly started to write a new album. We have a few shows in the summer, and hopefully we will record around November and be back in the U.S. to support it later on.
The title track “Hamartia” sounds exactly like I would expect the 2023 edition of the band to sound like. The dark, brooding, and rocking numbers, a solid natural progression.
AZ: That’s good, but I guess that means we have to step up our game for the album.
Is there anything in particular the band are focusing on in terms of live performances down the line?
AZ: Probably not until next year, just not part of the plan at the moment.
Joseph, I am familiar with your work with Enforcer and Black Trip, but what is it like to step into a band like Tribulation? What, from both of your perspectives, do you bring to the band?
JT: Tribulation has been one of my favorite bands since they’ve existed. It is a challenge to write for a band that you think is so good already. You have to be brave and respectful of things that have already been. You cannot copy what has already happened, and to know where they come from. You want to try and bring something unique.
AZ: That’s exactly what happened when we did the EP. The best part moving forward is that there is a respect for the past, but also an added outside perspective from a person who knows us. When we did it, he knew when to push us in new directions, almost teasing us in a way.
JT: It was probably worth bringing something to table that would get scrapped, rather than be afraid. I’m not afraid to bring something different to the table.
AZ: It would take us down some new paths that we haven’t explored before because we just would not have.
I saw that you covered a Blue Öyster Cult song. I love that album; I love that song. That was kind of the perfect BOC song for Tribulation to cover. Why in particular “Vengeance (The Pact)”?
JT: The main riff. I think when you hear it, you can imagine Tribulation playing it.
AZ: We have thought about covering Blue Öyster Cult for over a decade now. We thought of covering “Nosferatu” from Spectres [Editor's Note: Damn! Would have loved that.] or something of theirs from the ‘70s, but we chose this one instead. I think it was a good choice to use this one instead. We had everything recorded except the vocals; I had a bad feeling. Joseph and Robert Pehrsson, who recorded with us, did the backing vocals, so we decided to go with some clean vocals, and it sounded better. Johannes even did some clean vocals including towards the end.
JT: That’s what happens when you hear the riff, then you realize just how many parts there are to the song.
AZ: We had to figure it out while we were doing it.
Is there an influence or avenue that was unexplored that you might look into this time around?
AZ: Nirvana. I dunno, my riff has some kind of grunge influence. That’s going to be fun doing the new album because we have a few ideas that we’ve been talking about. We’re not sure they work yet—something new at least.
Any parting words about the EP before we wrap up?
JT: Adam made a great cover art.
AZ: It is a little bit like a BOC cover; it was cool getting some sword and sorcery into Tribulation. This was something we couldn’t do without covering bands like BOC and maybe even Manilla Road.
releases April 7th via Century Media Records.