Interview with Johannes Andersson by Carina Lawrence
The Swedish Grammy Award-winning metal quartet Tribulation are back with their highly anticipated fifth album ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’ which is released January 29th 2021 via Century Media Records. We talked to vocalist and bassist Johannes Andersson about the new album, the band’s origins, recent line-up changes and the future, however uncertain it is due to covid-19. ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’ is their more diverse and atmospheric release yet drawing inspiration yet again form all things dark and mythical…
So firstly, before we get onto the new album, just going back to the beginning, how did you come to join the band back in 2005?
It started with another band called Hazard, and it became the band Tribulation and consisted of me, Jonathan, Adam and guys from Enforcer actually, it was Jonas and Olof, me, Adam and Jonathan and we played some kind of Bay area metal together when we were kids when we were like 12 and me and Adam were 13 and Olof was maybe 15. I joined Hazard when I moved into town, it’s a small town we grew up in, I lived outside of town and went to elementary school, and then high school was in the city, so when I started there I instantly got in touch with the others because we had similar interests, heavy metal of course, so I joined Hazard, and it didn’t take long until we kicked out the brothers Olof and Jonas and formed Tribulation in 2004 or 2005 I think. Anyway, we kicked them out or at least started with kicking Olof out. I guess we wanted to play more heavy or extreme and he was still left in the clean singing and such so yeah, so that’s how I joined.
Following on from that, what were some of your main extreme/heavy influences?
Basically, it was me and Adam (guitarist) who really got into the Florida death metal scene and just death metal overall, but a lot of those bands were from Florida, you know Obituary, Morbid Angel, Death, more extreme stuff, so much stuff is happening at that age, you kind of absorb everything extreme for a while, you have to hear them before you can be them I guess. But Morbid Angel still sticks.
So moving on to your new fifth album ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’, how did you arrive at this cool album title?
I actually wanted the previous album ‘Down Below’ to be called that, but I’m glad they talked me down because it fits this album so much better. It’s work from this dark German very strange band Sopor Aeternus & the Ensemble of Shadows called in there song ‘Hades Pluton’, there is a line going something like “down, where the gloom becomes sound”, it’s their words, and it just got stuck in our heads, and we have been trying to find a way to use it but didn’t, and I remembered the title when we were in the studio I think, and I was really eager to use it, and the guys agreed, it fits.
Following on from that, can you tell us about the album artwork?
That was also actually me. Fun story actually, I buy art sometimes from this web page redbubble.com and you can almost anything you like on there, and I can’t remember what I was looking for but on pages like that you see what other pages others have looked at, you know images, you know art like this almost like a commercial and this picture of this woman came up, and I clicked it and instantly fell in love with it, so I bought it, not knowing anything about it but I did my research, and I think its this old Belgium guy 1896, so it is a sculpture and his name is Fernand Khnopff. So, I bought it and framed it in a gold frame and bought into the studio in the control room, so she was watching over us throughout the studio session and my purpose was, of course, to get the guys to like it, and they did. Someday I just said, “let’s use this image” and it was a no brainer, they liked it as well. I needed something more than the guys support in the studio. She got bombed as well in the second world war, so she doesn’t exist anymore, so that picture of her is copyright free.
You have recently just released a new single “Funeral Pyre”, can you tell us a bit about this song and video?
It’s an Adam song, it usually is or Jonathan writing the songs, but it’s the fire song I guess, if there is any theme it’s the elements, so this is the fire song. As it became a single, it feels like it’s a catchy song, its faster than the previous singles, so it made sense to have something faster. The video, he reached out to us, Claudio Marino the director, he has been doing a lot of metal videos, and he asked us if he could do a video. We said yes as we liked his work, so he came up with the video and took control, so it was nice for someone else to make the storyboard. The video before ‘Hour Of The Wolf’ I was really involved with, so we had to come up with everything and it took a lot of work but this ‘Funeral Pyre’ he had this finished vision so it was nice just to step in there and do the played scenes and I really like how it turned out.
Check out the video for ‘Funeral Pyre’ below:
You mentioned a little bit about the themes, and I know it was Adam and Jonathan who wrote most of the music, but I read that Adam said the themes were immersed in the world of myth and magic, can you elaborate on that a bit, like what specific or particular myths?
I would say its typical Tribulation overall, to be digging deep into all myths and magic and of course, with a bit of horror, that’s always been present, and it goes well together. That’s the thing, we never have a plan when we start writing when we enter the studio, it kind of shows itself when we are in the studio, I don’t know why it has become like that, but we don’t have a plan or theme, it just grows. Funny thing is Adam and Jonathan write the songs on each end, and without even talking to each other, we always notice that it moves towards the same kind of theme. It happened on ‘Down Below’ as well. It has become a thing of trusting the process I guess. We feel comfortable enough to know that we are going to end up somewhere by the end of the studio session. I mean we wouldn’t release anything that we think is lame or too boring. The world of myth and magic is a deep and vast place that you can draw inspiration from.
How much of an impact did covid have on writing and recording the album, it must have made things more difficult or did you just adapt to the situation?
I don’t know if you know, but Sweden had its own kind of thing to tackle covid, we got a lot of critique, but also not everyone agreed with how dealt with. I’m not sure I agree with the government of how did things, but it didn’t affect us that much. We entered the studio in April (2020), so it was in the beginning of it, in Sweden at least it wasn’t a huge panic yet, it was kind of okay if you compare it now to how Sweden reacts, it’s a big difference, but back then it was no problem, we were worried of course that some of us would catch it, being that close in the studio and that would have been devasting, and we would have had to prolong the studio and release date or something, but we all kept healthy, but we didn’t take unnecessary risks, but we went to the pub at some point, but it wasn’t as much as it is now with few cases in Sweden at least. It didn’t affect the process of recording it or writing it, so that’s good. My 2020 was very nice actually, record for two months, then vacation for the summer, went back to my parents, so I had quite a relaxed year. A lot of work with the album though but it was good.
How would you say the new album compares to the rest of your material?
I think this one is more diverse perhaps, the songs differ more than on ‘Down Below’, maybe there was a clearer theme in that sense on ‘Down Below’ but it has the first track that is almost industrial, and then we have ‘Hour Of The Wolf’, and that’s more of a rocker, with maybe an 80s feel to it, its very broad in that sense, and there’s the standard folk elements in some songs and its also the heavy metal songs’ Funeral Pyre’ and ‘Daughter Of The Djinn’, that’s a bit more traditional heavy metal in my ears, its more diverse, that’s my easy answer.
I like the production, its funny you always say it can’t sound much better than this sound but we are always proven wrong as it sounds better than ‘Down Below’, and I really like the people we worked with, they really did a great job.
You worked with Grammy-nominated producer Tom Dalgety (Ghost, Rammstein) didn’t you for the new album?
Yeah, we used our old friend Jamie Elton as a producer in the studio and then Tom did the mixing, we used Magnus Lindberg as we did last time. All good guys with very professional ears I would say.
Long-time member and creative force Jonathan Hultén announced his departure in late 2020, and new member Joseph Tholl has joined, how do you think this will affect the bands sound going forward as Jonathan did a lot of the main composing including on this new album?
I’m not worried, it’s just going to be different I guess, we have played with the guy for over fifteen years, its sort of an end of a marriage in a way but I have no worries at all for the future, it’s going to perhaps sound a bit different, but that’s no surprise of course. I’m more excited to hear how it turns out with the new guitar player Joseph Tholl, he is such a good songwriter as well, I’m very keen to start work with him and how the Tribulation sound will develop with him.
How did Joseph come to join the band? Did you already know him?
He is my oldest friend, we are the same age, and he is a musician playing in a lot of bands, he played with Adam in Enforcer a couple of years back, and me and Joseph always have a project together, right now we have a project called CC Company where I play the drums. Because he is our best friend, he has always known what we have been doing, so it was a no brainer. Jonathan said as well “I’m leaving, but you should really ask Joseph” and of course we did so I am very pleased about that.
Are there any plans for a live stream to help promote the album? I know you have actual touring plans, but that is some time off after the initial release and could change.
I don’t know, this live stream has been discussed but it’s not really our cup of tea, it depends on how long this pandemic will last, I mean hopefully the summer festivals will happen, but that’s a big question mark, of course, if the festivals doesn’t happen we have the fall tour in September that we can cross our fingers for, but up until the summer festivals we will see, maybe we will do a live stream but it would have to be perfect, and we would have to put in a lot of work and its probably priority to rehearse a lot, Joseph has a lot of songs to learn but maybe when he has warmed up maybe we will discuss it more then but for now it’s hard to tell you.
If the “Where the Gloom Becomes Sound Europa 2021” tour dates with BØLZER & Molassess does go ahead as planned in September, what can fans expect and have you got any thoughts on production or anything already or too early to say?
Too early but we will be doing headline tours, so that will make it better and cooler for the audience, longer set of course and more stage gear I guess, smoke machines and lights, other than that, I haven’t given it too much thought yet, we have to take one thing at a time I guess.
In 2019 you impressively won a Swedish Grammy (Grammis) award for ‘best hard rock/metal’ for your last album “Down Below” (2018), how did that feel to win and be recognised in such a big way and how do you feel reflecting back on that album for the band?
That felt good! We haven’t got that much recognition in Sweden, Sweden Grammis is a bit lame on presenting metal I guess more mainstream, but they do have the best hard rock/metal album of the year category at least, it always feels nice to win something of course, but at the same time it is good for the resume, but I don’t think much more happens. It is a lot of work you put in, so it’s extra nice to be invited to a nice dinner and have attention. We were nominated with ‘The Children Of The Night’ also, but we lost to Ghost, let’s see how thing go with ‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’.
I know only just releasing a new album but have you started working or any new material? As I know many bands are writing while they can’t tour or anything because of covid.
We are still working a lot with this album, my interview schedule is packed and so is Adam’s and also with the music videos but now the videos are done, there is still plenty of other stuff to take care of. I mean it’s interesting with the new guitarist Joseph because we are quite eager to try and write something so yeah maybe some kind of a release, perhaps an EP or something, instead of a live stream who knows but again nothing planned yet, just speculating at the moment.
‘Where The Gloom Becomes Sound’ is out 29th January 2021 via Century Media Records’.
Order/pre-save below: https://tribulation.lnk.to/WhereTheGloomBecomesSoundID
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