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The Unusual Troublemakers from the US "Freighter" - 79%

bayern, June 26th, 2017

I got both Juggernaut albums at the same time, in 1989 to be precise, and although I did like them and listened to them a couple of times, I seldom recalled them whenever I felt like listening to something outside the mainstream. Some time in the mid-90’s I was looking for another US obscurity from the glorious 80’s, the power metallers Griffin, and since that cassette was right next to the Juggernaut one on the shelf, I decided to give these folks another spin. The debut produced the same mildly positive impression on me, a passable, competent US power metal affair, but the album reviewed here got stuck in the player longer.

On the sophomore the band had gone the extra mile to give more freedom to their less ordinary visions, and the effort clearly shows as the opening “Without Warning” is an imposing bass-driven marvel recalling the debut with the faster-paced escapades, the couple of more complex guitar pirouettes hinting at the more engaging direction taken. “Vengeance” is a choppy power metal cut with echoes of Fates Warning and early Queensryche, and “Russian Roulette” is a more aggressive shredder with dramatic stomps and hard thrashing rhythms, the bass duelling with the sparse lead guitar showings. “The Calm Before…” is a short peaceful atmospheric instrumental, probably the calm before the “Swarm” which is the next piece, a heavy brooding pounder which undermines the musicians’ skills as nothing really eventful occurs through its nearly 7-min the brooding doomy “idyll” solely broken by the stylish hectic ending. The title-track is where the singer truly shines whose high-strung very emotional clean timbre acquires glass-shattering proportions for a while; music-wise this is progressive power metal with more than the usual twists and turns, kind of predating the elaborate exploits on Helstar’s “Nosferatu”, but this is less exuberantly constructed. “Weeping in Fire” is a jumpy technicaller with more pronounced leads and a jarring rhythm-section which may have impressed the Watchtower guys where the drummer Bob Jarzombek’s brother Rob was, and still is, taking care of the bass duties at the time. “Onslaught of the Hordes” carries on in the same vein the guys experimenting with bouncier riffs and more intricate fretwork, with a memorable chorus admirably pulled off by the singer, the bass support traditionally strong and vociferous. All the way to “The Pirate’s Blade”, a more subdued pounder sustained in a somewhat downbeat mid-pace.

In a way akin to another similarly-styled act from around the same time, Aftermath (Arizona), the band had “cooked” a diverse “dish” here, one that has many flavours but never settles for a leading one. Consequently it would satisfy a larger gamut of fans although the latter will be a bit confused by the frequent shift in focus, from epic to progressive to technical to atmospherically melodic and vice versa. There’s nothing wrong in variety, especially when it comes to music and women, but in this case this has been achieved as an aftermath from too many scattered ideas and uncertainty as to which path to be taken, not so much from the lack of musical skills cause those are amply displayed all over. The Jarzombek link could have been explored further, and the Watchtower folks again could have been given a run for their money, but the call from the epic power metal side of the guys’ hearts was just too strong to be ignored thus dissipating the more technical aspirations and blurring the loftier progressive visions.

At least the aforementioned Aftermath had the chance to straighten the flaws on the subsequent demos whereas our friends here disappeared without a trace in the midst of the 90’s without being able to record any tribute to the new music vogues. Jarzombek became a highly sought out session drummer while the others haven’t taken a very active part on the music arena all these years. They by all means caused some trouble within the American metal underground back then; there’s always worth trying to cause similar “mayhem” on the always-welcoming contemporary scene.

Going long and missing the catch - 55%

autothrall, December 11th, 2009

That's right. What the fuck is that on the cover, you ask. I don't know exactly how to answer that question, but if the purpose was to catch your attention, well it worked. Trouble Within is the second and final album from Texans Juggernaut, following Baptism Under Fire a year before. Where that album was a crude, if occasionally interesting blast of character, with a few tunes that stand out in a drab, crunchy crowd, this is a slightly less remarkable piece which was certainly a prelude to a split in the band.

The lineup of drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Halford, Demons & Wizards, Riot, Spastik Ink), bassist Bobby Womack and guitarist Eddie Katilus is joined here by Steve Cooper, who also fronted S.A. Slayer. Cooper is replacing Harlan Glenn, whose snarling, charismatic vocals were one of the factors that saved Baptism Under Fire from complete obscurity. I can't really blame the album's faults on any one element, least of all Cooper, who approaches the material with a lot of high pitched screaming and classic metal vocals that, while melodic in of themselves, don't always seem to match up so well with the loudly podding bass and boxlike crunch of the guitars. The musicianship on the album is quite good, in particular Womack who is flying all over the place as his strings pop and thump. Its much cleaner than its predecessor, which was a crunching, burning wreck, but then I kind of liked that...Trouble Within is not completely departed in terms of its writing or overall style, but this album feels safer. Too much so.

"Without Warning" begins with a string of technical, crude thrash notes before the speed metal of the verse...almost a primal cousin to Watchtower, though the riffs do not complement one another or create a similar, strange immersion like that band. "Vengeance" has some great bass playing, and Jarzombek is also getting crazy here, always an interesting fill or rhythm being nailed out below the guitars and vox. But once the fog clears, there isn't much to draw you back into the song. "Russian Roulette" uses some percussive muted rhythms to create a strange trip, like a "White Rabbit" thrash throwdown, but the busy bass and quirky guitar rhythms are the only real highlights, and the wild fusion solo is an earsore. "The Calm Before...the Swarm" starts with some very cool prog keys, before becoming a slowly crawling oddity with a few interesting bits and the rest throwaway.

The title track is actually the best thing on this album, and the most like Watchtower, with some intense technical speek licks courtesy of Eddie Katilus, and an almost Queen-like flair for dramatics in the vocals and structure. "Weeping in Fire" continues this trend, wildly inventive and melodic, with Cooper using his clean high range percussively over the drums. "Onslaught of the Hordes" is interesting only for the bass playing, and "The Pirate's Blade" is just not as cool as the name, though there are some backing vocals that combine with the slugging guitars and very trebly bass to create an atmosphere larger than most on the album. "Stellae Rubae" is a melodic instrumetal piece to which I am more or less indifferent, and the closen 'hidden' funk/rap track is...well...more dated than Celtic Frost's "Human" intro.

Trouble Within is kind of a tragedy, because the instrumental skills of the band are fully capable of impressing and delivering memorable hooks...yet the rather lame sound of the album truly disables its potential. The bass is just too funky and loud, I know some bands prefer this style (Sadus' bass-driven madness, for example). I don't think this is always necessary just to rally against the misinformed perception that bass players are not important. Bass is extremely important, but it also has to do its job. Womack is an insanely talented player, but the decision to have the bass so poppy and pronounced often makes the album sound like shit, especially with its mid to high tone. There are also no tracks on this like Baptism Under Fire's "Slow Death", which, despite its bludgeoning stupidity, has always remained embedded in my memory when I think of the band. If you want to hear and album that was trying something a little different than the often brazen sounds of contemporary 80s thrash artists, certainly this qualifies for a sit through. But it's simply not good.

Highlights: Trouble Within, Weeping in Fire

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Quality musicianship with a disturbing sound - 60%

sodometal, June 1st, 2007

Trouble Within is a progressive speed/thrash album played with a typical American style and sound. When I listened to the album, the first thing to come to my mind is that they sound like American Mekong Delta. It also sounds like early Fate’s Warning and Helstar albums. The cover artwork, which is a drawing of two staring blank eyes on a plain black background, really sucks.

The bass guitar is very loud and easily heard. This is due to the weak guitar tones. The tones are very irritating and this irritation peaks at leads. The vocal is not typical of thrash metal but rather he sings in heavy tones. The music has much variety thanks to the leading drumwork. Actually this is no big surprise as the drummer is Bobby Jarzombek.

The album is so changeable that a fast song can turn into a ballad and then rise again to thrashy speeds. All songs more or less have this same feature but The Calm Before… is an interlude played with keyboards and the following Swarm is a slow tempo song. Stellae Rubeae opens with acoustic guitar and then continues as an instrumental showcase. The album closes with a rather out-of-concept weird outro in which black guys in hardcore-rap style on bass and drums.

The album, considering its release year, is a big success. If we put the disturbingly distorted guitar tone aside, it is a good album with quality musicianship. The production shadows the music but you should give it a shot if you like thrash/speed metal.