Death Metal has changed quite a lot since its inception. I mean this in several ways, the biggest one of course being how often people seem to attach the term to bands who unfortunately are about as far from Death Metal as you can possibly be. In the long run superficial names used to make blanket statements about an ever-changing form of art and expression is beneath anyone with even a moderate comprehension of it. Of course the IMPORTANT change seen in Death Metal as of late is the aggressive mutation of the music itself. There seem to be a lot of bands taking maybe not what I would call a “technical” approach but a more progressive one. By progressive I don’t mean Morbid Angel’s recent output. Tribulation is a shining example of what a natural progression within extreme metal should be.

Tribulation’s follow up to 2009’s “The Horror” is an absolutely untouchable album. This record burns with white hot fire from beginning to end. Perhaps the most impressive thing about it is that it’s one of those few Death Metal records that shows that extreme acts are starting to develop a very real potential to reach a broader audience (for better or worse). I think that Tribulation satiates a hunger that a lot of extreme metal fans have had for awhile now. We crave a more violent but natural progression that refuses to let go of the older traditions that made Death Metal what it is. Stagnation and the fear of change is in my opinion one of metal’s greatest enemies, especially now that we’re several decades in. Tribulation wage war on those concepts and secure nothing less than total victory with “The Formulas of Death.” The four minute instrumental opener to the album, “Vagina Dentata” reestablishes the idea that “The Formulas…” is going to be a very different experience than what their previous output was.

It’s interesting to hear gothic sounding and piano instrumentals on what seems to be at least a quarter of this album, especially after listening to “The Horror” so much. But for as much as I harp on the various instrumental sections present within the songs it’s very important for me to also point out that at the heart of “The Formulas…” is a Death Metal album that has some of the best riffs I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a controlled sort of aggression that a lot of bands have attempted and failed at. The idea of meticulously turning the listener’s mind into an empty canvas and painting desolate landscapes behind images of blood and death with instrumentals like “Vagina Dentata” and then reducing everything to cinders with an apocalyptic fire on songs like “Wanderer in the Outer Darkness.” Every note and chord struck on this record is paramount to the overall picture that the album paints for the listener. “The Formulas…” is as much of a mental trip as it is a musical one. It is an absolutely perfect blend of bone crushing riffs with sometimes nightmarish and psychedelic instrumental bridges.

There isn’t much that can convince me otherwise at this point. I truly do believe that this record is and will remain one of the best releases of the year.