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Trouble's newest offering has proven to be quite extraordinary. After putting out the mediocre "Simple Mind Condition" and replacing Eric Wagner with Kory Clarke, Trouble looked to reinvent themselves. However, fans ultimately dismissed Kory Clarke, and rightly so. His voice did not match the music and he did not possess the skills required to take the front man spot in such a legendary band (Eric is a hard person to replace, but Kory was far from the perfect choice to take his place.) After sacking Kory, Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell decided to call Kyle Thomas of Exhorder fame to reprise his role as vocalist for Trouble (he had acted as their vocalist for 4 shows during the late 90's but had never recorded with them.) With Kyle Thomas, Trouble was able to truly reinvent themselves, and in a positive manner.
Obviously the first notable topic on interest is Kyle Thomas. As this is the first album to not feature longtime vocalist Eric Wagner, and for some this might be a turn off. With that said, Kyle does a stellar job. Sure, The Distortion Field lacks Eric's classic vocal style and unique lyrics, but Thomas does a great job channeling his own voice and using his own strengths to play to Trouble's classic sound. Not only is he a better candidate for vocalist than Kory Clarke, but he possesses an incredible vocal range, and delivers his vocals in a powerful way, a bit more intense in contrast to Eric's "Tortured" vocal style. Many of his vocal melody's soar over nicely layered chords, and a lot of Kyle's harmonies mesh nicely with the music. Again, the album does lack Eric Wagner, and admittingly I do miss his vocals; but Kyle certainly deserves some credit for stepping into the lead vocalist role and delivering a stellar performance.
Musically, the album sits between Trouble's classic doomy sound and their psychedelia infused material (reference S/T, Manic Frustration, and Plastic Green Head). In some instances Trouble fans dismiss this era of Trouble while others embrace it moreover Trouble's classic releases (Psalm 9, The Skull, and Run to the Light). The Distortion Field manages to effectively mesh Trouble's classic sounds and their Psychedelic nods in a balanced way. Personally, I enjoy every album Trouble has put out, even Simple Mind Condition to an extent, so for me, this was a very nice balance. The song writing is more straightforward as far as arrangements go, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The album is not void of powerful riffs; Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell once again prove that they are undisputed champions of doom riffing. Powerful lead work can be heard throughout the album, and often times become staples of each song.
Newcomer Marko Lira does a fine job drumming on this release. While not Barry Stern or Oly Olson, he does a solid job interpreting each piece. Perhaps its the fact that he does not over perform; he lays down the rhythm and reacts to the changes without deterring from each track.
I only have a few complaints regarding this release. The first one is the bass guitar. It is to my understanding that Bruce and Rick played the bass tracks. My issue isn't that they played them, rather, its that they sit too low in the mix. There are certain points where I fell if the bass was enhanced it would really help some songs shine. That being said, its not a HUGE issue. My other issue is that they album could have been a bit shorter. Actually, the length does not bother me to much, but for some it might be an issue.
I have to give Trouble credit here. After releasing a mediocre album (Simple Mind Condition), having their definitive vocalist leave, and going through 4 years of sporatic touring with an awful replacement, they have pulled everything together and put out a kick ass album. Do not overlook this album; I'd imagine that even if Trouble fans don't enjoy it as much as I do, there will be certain aspects of it they will enjoy. I look forward to seeing a Kyle Thomas fronted Trouble on tour very soon.