Tribulation – Alive & Dead at Södra Teatern (Metal Blade)

Thursday, 26th December 2019
Rating: 7/10

There may be no more unnecessary exercise than a live album. The proliferation of fan-shot YouTube videos has eliminated whatever intrigue and/or surprise element that used to come from having to wait to see a band in the flesh. With a quick search and a few clicks, live footage and audio of bands are more available than it really should be. But, don’t tell that to hot-to-trot Swedish dark Gothic metal outfit Tribulation. Their last two albums (2015’s The Children of the Night and 2018’s Down Below) have made them critical darlings and a band to lean on for aesthetic value. Their live Alive & Dead at Södra Teatern simply confirms they can pull off their album recordings accordingly.

Recorded at Stockholm’s famed Södra Teatern, Alive & Dead catches Tribulation playing the aforementioned Down Below in full, along with prerequisite cuts from Children of the Night and 2013’s The Formulas of Death. The material on Down Below is simple, yet atmospheric, with Tribulation owing much of its sound orientation to the overflow of guitar melodies and the basic premise in which their riffs function. This is perhaps why their cuts translate as well as they do — the Goth jangle of “Nightbound” is satisfying as the mammoth, over ten-minute “Here Be Dragons,” as is the melancholic, almost ’70s tilt of set closer “Strains of Horror.”

Through it all, the bark of Johannes Andersson remains monotonous and there as window dressing, while crowd reaction is muted, but appreciative. An appropriate alum cycle endcap and career milestone Alive & Dead at Södra Teatern may be for Tribulation, but surely the actual album recordings of Down Below and The Children of the Night are the right gateways for the ever-rising Swedes.

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