INTERVIEW: TRIBULATION, between darkness and dystopia


Photo: Dirk Behlau

Line-up changes make all the difference in a band, and Tribulation recently released the video clip “Axis Mundi”, a composition in which the incorporation of Joseph Tholl is fully integrated. With this, they present half of their EP «Hamartia» that will soon be released and establishes the integration of this new member. Adam Zaars reveals to us in this interview the details of what the incorporation of Joseph has meant, the conceptualization of the album and the next steps they are going to take.

-First off, why did you prefer to release an EP instead of a full length?

Well, we found ourselves in a rather strange situation -as everyone else, I guess- with COVID. But we had just released our latest album during the pandemic, so all our plans of touring and all the plans that we had, we just threw them away. And we also had a change in the members of the band with Joseph coming in on guitar

 So we had to do something instead of doing nothing, since we couldn’t really play. And we didn’t just want to start writing a new album directly after we had just released one. So we thought we could just write a few songs and see where it ended up. And eventually it turned out to be an EP.

-Okay. Is there a possibility –or does it exist the possibility- that you’ll focus on playing live this year?

Not entirely. We did festivals during the summer and then we had a tour in September and October, so we at least got some live performances in.  And we will continue doing that this summer as well with festivals. But mainly we’ll be focusing on writing a new album.

-On the episode you mentioned about changing members in the band. Why that decision? What was the motivator? And how is the synergy working with Joseph? 

It’s good. It’s very good. We’ve known each other since we were kids and we’ve played music together since we were kids. So it’s not a new thing, but it’s a new thing in a Tribulation context, of course. But no, it’s been kind of like a boost in creativity. Writing the songs for the EP was just a lot of fun and it made us go back in time a bit to see what we’d been listening to in the past and kind of gathering some reminiscing about old times, I guess, but musically as well. So that probably led to some change in what you hear in the songs. So overall it’s been great and now we’re going to continue doing that. We’ve already started doing that for new songs, for the new album. So, yes only positive things to say about that. 

-Very positive vibes with Joseph! Okay. It’s nice. Do you think he has brought new sounds, influences or new ways of working? 

Definitely, he’s testing us a bit to see how far he can push things, which is great. Sometimes it won’t work, but sometimes it will so I’m sure he’ll keep doing that now with the new songs as well, to keep pushing us to go into new territories.  

-I imagine it might be like playing with an old friend and not just one more band member.  

Very much so, yes. Since he knows us so well, he knows what we like and what we don’t like. I think he’s trying to kind of meet us in between what we’re used to and what we’re not used to, to see if he can push us forward, I guess, in whatever direction. I mean, he’s bringing a lot of his own influences in. He’s a huge like NIRVANA nerd, so he’s bringing in new stuff as well. 

-A lot of influences in songs. I think that one thing about TRIBULATION is that you seem to draw from different inspirations; there are a lot of sounds. You don’t play only one genre; you are a lot of different stuff. 

Yeah, I would agree with that. It’s difficult to pin down. 

Yes, but I think it’s nice. You never sound the same, you never sound like the previous album or the previous song. There’s evolution. 

Yeah, and sometimes you get stuck but I mean, we’re not only about constantly changing, of course, but you never want to stand completely still. And now it’s the time, I think, where we have to push ourselves into new territories, so we’ll see where that ends up. 

Will you still be the songwriter for the next album? 

Well, yeah, it’s going to be mainly both Joseph and me writing the music, but we’ll see. We always collaborate with the whole band, so Johannes and Oscar are also there helping Joseph and me. 

-So does everybody bring their own vibes and sounds? 

Yeah, kind of. Oscar, the drummer, he’s got his own style of playing, of course, so he always brings his own groove to it, I suppose. And then Johannes, he’s got his voice and you have to work with his voice and around his voice. But also, at least with me, when I write songs I usually start out with, you know different pieces that you have to get together in the right place. And sometimes is very difficult to find the right way. Then it’s always nice to have someone to try out with and Johannes is always there.  

– About the lyrics, what’s the concept that you want to explore with ‘Hamartia’? Some sort of sci-fi, dystopian future world? What can you tell us about the lyrics, what’s the concept? 

With the song, ‘Hamartia’, I just started being inspired by the word, because it’s an old word, ancient Greek. It means to miss the mark. It’s the word that it’s used for sin in the New Testament, in the Bible. And it’s kind of an Aristotelian story as well. First of all I found the word beautiful. It’s a word with a lot of meaning and it changed through the millennia even.  The lyrics are basically about the word. It’s not about a dystopian future, but it’s inspired by dystopian fiction. To boil it down, I would say it’s the song that is against prohibition and puritan thought in any shape and form 

I mean, it’s a poetic word, an exploration of the word maybe, but grounded in the idea of… It’s a rather cynic song, and a pessimistic song, that is more against something than for something. I think that is kind of a theme with the whole EP. It’s a bit angrier than it’s been in a while. 

-There are many different ways to see the world. What do you want to express, to convey…? 

Well, it’s not about sending a message really, I don’t want to change world – word (laughs). Many people do, but I’m not one them. Or maybe I want to, but I don’t think that’s the point with Tribulation at least. So it’s not about sending a message. It’s just about expressing ourselves and sharing that with other people. 

– In this EP you have a Blue Öyster Cult cover -one of my favourite bands- (laughs). Why did you decide to incorporate ‘Vengeance’ to the context of the EP? 

(laughs) You’re right. 

Isn’t it kind of the opposite? 

It’s more about it just being a cool song than anything else. I mean, (laughs) it’s about Tornado, the heroine from the ‘Heavy Metal’ series you know, almost ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ kind of lyrics (laughs).  
So, yeah, it’s not very dystopian in that sense, I agree (laughs). But it was great to just rewrite the song, and we’ve wanted to play the song for such a long time but we never really found the moment. So, yeah, we wanted to give it a try and see if we could do something out of it, but we almost thought we couldn’t, really. And when we added the guitars and the drums we almost said “let’s not do it.” 

Yes, like, “why not?! We want to play this song”. 

Yeah, but it sounded so bad without the vocals, but then when we laid some lyrics -or some vocals on there it started making sense. So yeah, it’s more about being a cool song from a cool band that we like (laughs). 

Cool. I think you’ve given it a nice color, a darker… Or well, I think it’s the darkest BÖC cover I’ve ever listened. You did a good job on that. 

That’s good, that’s good, thank you! (laughs). 

Photo: Dirk Behlau

-How’s your relationship with Century Media? Would you say working with a label like them provides you some sort of comfort? How would you value your work with them? 

It’s good. We have a good relationship. They trust us and we can do whatever we want to do. 

They are mainly there as a support and in helping release the albums. We do whatever we want to do; if we have a good idea and they think that sounds fair, they help us with tour support of whatever, but they are mainly there just to help us release the albums. And not much else. And that’s how we want it to be. 

We want to be as independent as we can.

-So you have a good relationship with them. That’s important. We have to hear nowadays a lot of stories about bad decisions with record labels, so it’s nice that you have their support.  

So what’s one thing you’d like to tell us about ‘Hamartia’ and the concept and that we can talk about? 

We’ve released two songs now, the third one is coming in, I don’t know, a few weeks, and then it’s going to be out, but I would just tell people not to forget about the fourth song, there’s another song on the EP (laughs). It’s called ‘Hemoclysm’, which is my favourite song on the EP. That one was the one that helped the most writing in the end, so don’t forget to check out ‘Hemoclysm’. 


-Why is that your favourite song? 

Good question. You know, you have ideas that are quite abstract that you want to express with the music and often times it drifts elsewhere. It goes in another direction. That’s fine, because it’s the process of it. But I think I got more of that -whatever it is- of those abstract ideas into the song and, whatever it is, the right kind of tempo and harshness, even a rather funky/Soul section (laughs). A lot of different rhythms that I like got into that song. So I think that’s fine. 

-A lot of you in one song. That’s nice.  

Is there anything that you’d like to say to your Spanish fans? 

I’d like to say thank you for always coming out to the shows and for supporting us. It’s always great to come down to Spain, especially Barcelona I’d say, it’s great elsewhere as well, but it’s always like “those” shows of the tour were in Barcelona.  

-I’m living in Barcelona and there are a lot of Tribulation fans here. 

Yeah, so thank you for that and I hope we can return as soon as possible. Probably it won’t be soon, but it will obviously happen again. 

-Thanks for the interview Adam, see you in Spain! 

You are welcome! 

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