Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Cassette
On their debut full-length The Weight of Remembrance Vancouver duo Tribunal waste no time acknowledging their heroes: Black Sabbath. Like the metal pioneer’s eponymous first offering, the album begins with a tolling bell and pouring rain, followed by trudging rhythms and eerie guitar trills. Tribute paid, Tribunal expand the spectrum, intertwining a variety of other doom and gothic metal styles.
There are the feral growls and elegiac female vocals of Draconian, the mournful strings of My Dying Bride, and the cinematic multi-tiered majesty of Paradise Lost. Yet, while Tribunal have a firm grasp history of doom, they aren’t limited by its traditions or tropes. They may be standing on the shoulders of demons, drawing from decades of darkness, but the way they juxtapose caustic dissonance and brooding melody—most noticeably by blending haunted female vocals and throat-parched black metal growls—provides an enticing duality.
Much of the credit goes to bassist, cellist, and clean vocalist Soren Mourne, a classically trained musician whose playing and singing stems as much from the agony and hopelessness of modern composers such as Henryk Górecki and Arvo Pärt as it does from her collection of doom. That’s not to downplay co-founder Etienne Flinn, who consistently accompanies Mourne’s layered strings with the perfect riff, lick, or hook to fit the mood. Whether that means down-tuned chugs reminiscent of Celtic Frost (“Of Creeping Moss and Crumbled Stone”) or melodic, meandering fretwork reminiscent of early Candlemass (“A World Beyond Shadow”), Flinn has an uncanny gift for showcasing Mourne’s talent.
Aside from a brief, mid-album piano composition performed by Claine Lamb, The Weight of Remembrance is comprised of long, disconsolate songs that are rhythmically diverse without being self-indulgent. Mourne expresses herself with emotion, not flair, and rather than playing deft speedy solos, Flinn creates tension and atmosphere with serpentine guitar lines that twist around the grim cello passages.
While their gloomy sound falls within the parameters of gothic metal, Tribunal are the polar opposite approach of the bands who took that aesthetic mainstream; where Evanescence, HIM, and Within Temptation make songs that sound glum but are ultimately uplifting, Tribunal cut, burn, and dig at old scars, enveloping and crushing hearts through raw expressions of resentment and sadness. That doesn’t mean Tribunal can’t be catchy. Mourne’s playing is so beautiful it hurts, and Flinn lays down plenty of earworms that wriggle, creep, and embed themselves deep in the gray matter.
While Tribunal’s lyrics don’t quite match the grandeur of their music, they’re formidable nonetheless, elliptically addressing depression, fear, and eternity with frequent references to death, emptiness, and the endurance of nature. In “Without Answer,” one of the heaviest songs on the album, Mourne sings, “When I look up to the sky and I see nothing but the stars/ Recite the words etched in my heart, without answer, come apart.” The 12-minute-long epic “The Path” is more fatalistic: “Disappear into darkness never to be found, lost connection, back to who you once were.”
With diverse arrangements, strong songwriting, and evocative imagery, The Weight of Remembrance is a stunning debut. Existentially heavy yet strangely euphoric, Tribunal’s inaugural full-length is a must-have for misery junkies and those that thrive in the dark.