Tribulation in the flesh. Live on stage. In front of a seated audience. At one of Stockholm's oldest and most storied venues. Normally, this would be unceremonious, but for Alive & Dead at Södra Teatern, Tribulation's first live album, it was an event to behold, for the monsters were let out of their cages to run wild as the Swedes imparted death metal of distinction across two fearsome sets. Invited by ex-Nirvana 2002 vocalist and curator Orvar Säfström, who also bedeviled the audience as master of ceremonies, Tribulation treated their besuited Swedish legions to unrivaled dark magic at their first-ever Södra Teatern (Southern Theatre) main hall gig.
"Södra Teatern is an old establishment," guitarist Adam Zaars says. "We've been there as guests and even played there a few times before, but before this we never had the pleasure and privilege of playing the beautiful, and in ways haunting, main hall. We've played many different kinds of venues and locations, from playing on the floor in small rundown bars to playing the big festival stages and we've enjoyed all of it, but playing at Södra Teatern truly felt like Tribulation, a kind of place where we in a sense belong. At least at the moment. We're glad we could capture it in the way we did!"
Tribulation, now a well-oiled monster after years on the road, proffered their Down Below album in full as the first course. Performed expertly from front to back, the 2018 toplister elicited gasps from and struck fear in the Södermalm audience. For the second course, eight blood-curdling tracks were expertly extracted from Tribulation's insanely good back catalog. Indeed, "The Motherhood of God," "Rånda," "Strange Gateways Beckon," and "Strains of Horror" were rapturous. Alive & Dead at Södra Teatern is proof that between intimate formal settings and dive bars, Tribulation are one of the best live bands on the planet. They've done the work. The Swedes have imagined and are heading towards greatness.
"It was a new feeling playing in front of a seated audience," says Zaars. "I think we actually managed to do it without everything being completely awkward. On the contrary it elevated both us and the audience in unexpected ways and we at least hope that everyone left satisfied. It was a big project and there were so many details that could have gone so very wrong, but luckily only a few did. In the end I think we were just glad that we got through the night unscathed and that we pulled through and even did it with a bang! As is customary, we ended the night with debauchery and decadence."
There are live albums. And then there are albums that sing electric! Judas Priest's Unleashed in the East, Iron Maiden's Live after Death, and Slayer's Decade of Aggression are truly charged live albums. Time to add Tribulation's Alive & Dead at Södra Teatern to that venerated list.