|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Alex Best & Tribulance|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 39:11|
With each new thrash band that hits the scene comes the challenge of standing out in a segment characterized by (what in my opinion is) cookie-cutter style and classification. It is no secret that I am not a connoisseur of thrash metal, at least when factoring how I find the genre (in quoting past reviews) ‘overbearing and heavy handed to be near unlistenable’ with the main point of contention ‘revolving around its lack of accessible appeal’. Equally problematic is an at times harsh and abrasive vocal style that I might describe - and I put this in the most polite manner possible - as an acquired taste at best. The gist being that a good percentage of thrash bands end up sounding the same (i.e.: cookie-cutter) to these ears.
The rare exception in which I cover a thrash band involves those that blend thrash with some other form of hard music. In other words, a group has to be thrash and a whole lot more! One such act is Deliverance. Better known for its ‘Metallica cross Queensryche’ sound, Deliverance combines very heavy and fast paced riffing with the high end and soaring vocals of front man Jimmy P. Brown II. Another worth considering is Sweden’s Chained, whom upholds the aggression of thrash metal but in a groove based package in which catchy melodies and gruff but still clean vocals prevail. I might also mention former Megadeth tribute band Boarders from how it plays up the accessibility of melodic metal while retaining the trademark heavier aspects to the thrash side of things.
The latest group to get in on the ‘thrash and a whole lot more’ act is Tucson, Arizona based four-piece Tribulance. A mainstream group with a spiritual basis (and more on this later), Tribulance got its start in 1995 with its debut full-length Trials & Tribulations only to go on extended hiatus until 2012 when founding members vocalist Michael Vidal, guitarist Sal Flores and bassist Gino Silva resurrected the band with newcomer Brandon Lee on drums. Tribulance soon started work on the old school thrash joined with traditional metal and US power metal of its sophomore album The Aftermath Of Lies, which it independently released in late 2016.
Little doubt is left by Tribulance as to its thrash roots in that interspersed throughout the Aftermath Of Lies are the same type of slower-to-faster-stop-and-start-chugga-chugga riffs you will find on an early Deliverance album. Yes, similar to Deliverance, Tribulance has a front man which sets it apart in that Michael Vidal brings a powerful at times melodic and others driving vocal style drawing upon the traditional metal aesthetic that I can see fans of Halford (Judas Priest) Atkins (Atkins May Project), Kramer (Saint) and Vance (Armageddon USA) identifying. What I hear is a vocalist that when going for a high note crosses the threshold of straightforward hard rock but when reaching down for some rumbling lower register angst reminds somewhat of Egidio Casati of Boarders.
One reviewer that had the right idea compared Tribulance to Judas Priest, Disturbed, Megadeth, Sacrament, Sevendust and Avenged Sevenfold. I might add Meliah Rage to that list along with Live To Die era Bride, Mad Dragzter, Temple Of Blood and a host of power metal bands with a sound rooted in a darker bearing (that are too numerous to mention).
If interested in a joining of the aggressive and melodic then look no further than opening cut “Oblivious”. What we have here is an unambiguous as it gets barnburner, upholding an attacking presence direct out of the gate as chugging thrash heavy riffs, gutsy bass and shouted backing vocals coalesce in blatant fashion. The melodic facet comes into play in terms of the catchy ‘Reap what you show!” refrain.
“Conflict” reflects some ominous doom like vestiges at the start only to gradually build momentum until exploding for the youthful and brazen energy of its verses. The song returns to a more toiling mood for its refrain, as Vidal reaches low and growls ‘Like a game, only lack of shame / Only you to blame, only you to blame!’ Once more, heavy but catchy is the impression left.
Albums title track stands out as heaviest of the heavies with its in your face and no-nonsense demeanor. No, “The Aftermath Of Lies” might not be quite catchy as its two predecessors but more than makes up for it with its all out powerhouse delivery- I am reminded somewhat of Deliverance’s “Flesh & Blood” in this capacity. The song otherwise gives the group opportunity to exhibit its tight musicianship, including Brandon Lee’s steamrolling drums and Sal Flores’ proclivity for intense hammer on driven soloing.
Tribulance takes a more melodic heading on subsequent track “Betray”. Almost reflecting upon melodic metal, “Betray” finds Gino Silva leading the way with a mirthful bass line in setting the up-tempo tone of a song that is engaging manifest- I dare you to keep this one out of your head with repeat play! Of equal note are the airtight guitar harmonies that impel things front to back.
The distorted bass solo that gives way to trenchant guitars to open “Initiation” speaks of doom metal. Plowing ahead the song comes across hulking and impactful, spewing forth in heated fashion to its strapping guitar walls but also understated in terms of its melodic qualities as revealed in its sweeping chorus. Traditional metal reaching for light power metal nuances might be the best way to describe things.
“Deny The Pain” hearkens back to “Oblivious” with its near perfect merging of accessibility and hit like a ton of bricks momentum. What I hear is an upbeat thrash basis with a commercial backbone, outlined in its start to finish vivacity (as persuasive guitars lead the way) and infectious hooks (that are enhanced by the bands all out energy). Boarders could not do this better.
“Cause And Effect” is as heavy a hitter as you will find. The song sets the aggressive tone from the get go, demolishing its verses with an assaulting guitar onslaught while storming through an every bit lambasting refrain, with the overall feel similar to the title track to Bride’s Live To Die (powerful, expansive and not for the faint of heart!). As also the most thrash heavy of the albums material, “Cause And Effect” does divulge a slight repetitiveness but is good all the same.
A chilling effect establishes itself as portent guitars and eerie keyboards carry the start to “Enamored”. The song picks up at once to a flood of crushing guitars that carry its distance, memorable from its sweeping melody (chorus, again, is quite catchy) but equally intense in terms of Vidal’s impassioned vocals (he reaches low and lends some fury to his delivery). The caustic lead guitar fits the traditional metal imbued with touches of thrash setting at hand.
Album closes to one of its more varied tracks, “Walk The Talk”. The song kicks in at once at a near speed metal romp, playing up a tempestuous mentality for its turbulent verses in which the group’s rhythm section makes a chaotic statement. When momentum tempers, it does so slightly upon procuring the near hardcore feel to its pummeling refrain. This one is another in a long line of heavy hitting but listenable tracks done Tribulance style.
Credit Tribulance for such strong production on an independent release: mix is crisp enough for proper separation of instrumentation, while mastering provides enough polish but not so much as to take away from the bands inherent energy. CD packaging is also effective with a three-page insert including lyrics and liner notes in an easy to read font not to mention plain but effective cover art.
Do not confuse Tribulance with being a Christian band; rather, I might describe them (as already noted) a mainstream group with a spiritual basis. Albums liner notes, thank ‘GOD, for without Him none of this is possible’. In a recent online interview, Brand Lee describes himself as ‘(having grown up) Christian/Catholic, I have faith, I believe in God, and try to live my life within everything I believe!’
The Aftermath Of Lies might not be concept related but does maintain the following lyrical theme (as outlined by the band): ‘Overall it is mostly about lessons learned through trial and error. Lessons on what is right and wrong. It's about redemption. It's about holding close the wisdom you've obtained and using it with the second chances you've been given.’ What I read in the lyrics is the importance of personal accountability.
Albums title track, for example, deals with an individual lacking creditability due to dishonesty:
In circles you run, in circles you bleed
In circles you leave, as you follow the lead
Capturing the wrath with words that you spill
Will I believe embracing the chill?
Feeling the power of lies that extreme
Darkness cold touch and what it will bring
Forever a liar you cannot escape
Tears from the soul, tears from the rape
Temptation (or a person that eventually succumbs to his desires) is the meaning behind “Enamored”:
I’ve seen the lives you see
I’ve seen the faces… they bleed
Forever more, so pray my Lord
Obeying laws, clutching claws
Haunted memories so steep
Watching as they plant the seed
They held me down, they tore me down
My hope was lost, no one to trust
“Deny The Pain” focuses on becoming stronger and persevering through difficult times:
Blinded when I think of my sight
Beaten as I put up a fight
Walking when I’ve needed to run
Under pressure, under the gun
Terror when I think what awaits
Realize when I stand at the gates
Power when I think of the key
What I need to break from all this slavery…
“Initiation” is written from the standpoint of someone abused as a child:
Shut down and locked
This world so cold, no fighting chance
Take these beads of sweat
These beads of shame, these beads of hate
Crushed this holy rule
Your riding pride, the unborn light
Sought the only one, reborn as one
The walls go up, the walls come down
Little child never frown, no greetings and no good byes
Lone song to come into question is “Conflict”, which uses a certain three-letter word in reference to someone’s posterior. It is perfectly appropriate, however, in light of the songs subject: the frustration of a person attempting to fix a tarnished reputation:
Spare your peace, we’re keeping score
Taste of your blood has me coming back for more
Accept the day you become my whore
Just as you disease, disease to this war…
Running in circles so asinine
Soon you’ll be back, you’re a** is mine
Ravage to the mass
The Aftermath of Lies stands out as one of those rare albums to merge the all out aggressive with pleasing melody. Yes, there are thrash moments aplenty but they are balanced by the groups engaging songwriting (that also touches upon the traditional and power metal) and varied vocals to Michael Vidal (who complements the heavy nature to the Tribulance music without coming across overbearing). Yes, at nine songs and 39 minutes the album is a bit short, but give the group credit for going with its best material and not including any filler. In the end, if the upcoming album from Deliverance (which it recently successfully crowd funded) is of similar musical style and quality as The Aftermath Of Lies then hard music fans are in for a real treat. Let’s hope it is not another twenty years until we again hear from Tribulance!
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Oblivious” (4:29), “Conflict” (4:37), “The Aftermath Of Lies” (4:16), “Betray” (3:18), “Initiation” (4:37), “Deny The Pain” (3:43), “Cause And Effect” (3:32), “Enamored” (5:44), “Walk The Talk” (4:52)
Michael Vidal - Lead Vocals
Salvador Flores - Guitars
Lawrence Silva - Bass
Brandon Lee - Drums