Constantly writing reviews for a metal magazine, it’s not often that you find yourself surprised by submissions. But when you are, it does take you aback. Case and point the new offering from Burnaby, BC natives Tribune and their LP “Elder Lore/The Dark Arts”. It’s common to find death/prog bands, but to find a death/prog/thrash/groove/grunge is something totally different. It’s a fresh and bold offering from Tribune but does their new album satisfy fully or does it spread itself too thin? It’s like I’ve said many times; being in metal is like being part of the circus and with every genre you try and dance between; it’s like a trapeze artist adding yet another part to his show. Want to add thrash? It’s like eating fire during the trapeze act. Want to throw in death? Add lion taming to the fire eating while swinging and you start to get the idea.
“It Came From the Swamps” opens up the album with a huge death metal intro that reminds me of Cannibal Corpse or the new offering from Cerebral Bore but quickly switches pace to something more akin to a heavier version of Alice in Chains or Helmet. A strange combination that I haven’t heard as of yet, but it goes on… they quickly switch to the more high pitched harsh vocal offerings of Protest the Hero and again on a dime switch back again to a grunge/groove pace similar to White Zombie or new Mastodon…and we’re only halfway through the first song. For the most part, the album retains the same pace of switch/change between genres that will either satisfy the hell out of you or bug the hell out of you. Genre switching aside, Tribune maintains a very quick pace throughout the entire album, which helps give the feeling of unity to the songs that, would otherwise completely fall apart. From beginning to end, the band maintains a somewhat unfocused, yet for the most part satisfying sound that offers plenty for the ears.
It may have been what the band was going for, but Tribune’s diversity has an adverse effect through the Elder Lore…. At times, it feels like the b-sides from other well-known albums. Sometimes, the problem is the guitar tracks are made up of the 2 riffs all North American bands know from Soilwork, In Flames and At the Gates. You know, the ones Killswitch Engage and the other metalcore bands keep ripping off? Other times it’s the pulls from other genres. The instrument recordings are, for the most part, done pretty well, with the exception of the bass guitar; it genuinely sounds as if it were recorded in a wet shoebox. Then it’s back to the genre switching. And therein lies the problem; I spent a good chunk of my time distracted from the album; if it wasn’t the bass, it’s that I was trying to identify who they sounded like rather than enjoying the album.
It’s a formula that doesn’t always work, but when it does, boy howdy. “Man on the Outside” is a great example of what the band is capable of if they were just a little more focused rather than being all over the place. The double axe work of Anderson and Culley really shine all over and vocalist Bryan Baker is easily one of the most talented and diverse singers I’ve ever heard and for all its shortcomings, Elder Lore still provides a great listen that will leave you satisfied if you like this type of thing.
It’s simply a formula that needs some tweaking. If Tribune can find the balance in that, I predict big things for the band. If however, they can’t, well let’s just say “jack of all trades, master of none”.