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Trouble reinvents themselves - 90%

sn0wb1ind0zzy, September 26th, 2013

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.

Yes, Trouble works fine without Wagner - 60%

mblidmark, July 25th, 2013

Since the last Trouble album, 2007's Simple Mind Condition, one singer has left the band and one has been fired. In charge of the mic today is Kyle Thomas, previously in Alabama Thunderpussy, who also sang with the band between 1997 and 2000. Of course, Eric Wagner's amazing singing has always been an important component in the Trouble atmosphere and since this is the first album wihtout him, the mood is bound to be a little bit different this time.

Anyway. The first song of The Distortion Field, When The Sky Comes Down, is a rather typical Trouble song with regards to the melodies and the overall composition of the song. The next two songs however, Paranoia Conspiracy and The Broken Have Spoken, are straightforward rock songs with very simple choruses. In contrast to the great opening song with its haunting melodies, these two are a big disappointment.

There is a distinct difference in the sound between Trouble's two latest albums. While Simple Mind Condition sounded like a doom rock album with a lot of groove, The Distortion Field sounds more like a regular hard rock album with doom metal components. If that's a good or a bad thing is up to the listener to decide, but personally I prefer the psychedelic groove of Simple Mind Condition over The Distortion Field's more head-on approach.

One of the first things that struck me while listening to this album is that Kyle Thomas does an amazing job and I constantly find myself impressed by his vocal range. A good example of his qualities is in Sink Or Swim, one of my favourite songs on the album. It's a melancholic piece with a lot of build up and atmosphere, as opposed to the preceding two songs, and he shifts between a lot of different singing styles constantly during the song. It's a really cool song that contains pretty much everything you could look for in a Trouble song, all wrapped up with a really heavy doom metal outro.

One Life is another good one. It starts off with a slow piano/organ intro followed by some of the heaviest riffs on the entire album as well as a great guitar solo. However, there's just something about the lyrics that puts me off - “You only got one life to live, so give it all you got to give. Embrace the truth, don't live a lie. No regrets on the day you die”. I don't know, with the whole Christian thing in the ir early albums I suppose I shouldn't expect Trouble's lyrics to be all too sinister. But still.

The album continues with Have I Told You, a song that sounds more like a Pearl Jam ballad than a Trouble song to me. In itself I guess it's an okay song but on a Trouble album I really don't know what to make of it. Other than that, there are some more songs that strike me as a little too simplified and straightforward but there are some great moments by the end of the album, as well. Butterflies has some absolutely fantastic riffs and a chorus to die for and The Greying Chill Of Autumn is a groovy, psychedelic song that makes me a little sad, wondering why there aren't more songs on the album like it.

The greatest surprise of the album is definitely Kyle Thomas' vocal performance. He isn't a carbon copy of Eric Wagner but that's not what the band should have gone for, in my opinion. I really appreciate how Kyle's voice is a whole other thing and I imagine he will do a great job live. To sum things up, it's hard to score this album. On the one hand it contains some truly amazing pieces of work. On the other hand, about half of the songs don't really do anything for me. I want to score the good songs eight out of ten and the not-so-good songs a four out of ten, so I think it's fair to settle for a six in total.

Originally written for www.metalcovenant.com

Slaughter in the Vatican - 74%

Metantoine, July 18th, 2013

After Saint Vitus' return last year with the underwhelming Lillie : F-65, another American doom legend has been resurrected. Their revival is also a successful one and after a six years pause since the mediocre Simple Mind Condition and the departure of Eric Wagner (who formed his own Trouble cover band, The Skull). The Distortion Field is the first album with Kyle Thomas formerly in cult thrash/groove progenitors Exhorder. In an unfair world where the new Black Sabbath is number one in the charts, quality doom metal is still alive and this album is the proof.

Trouble has always been pushing the boundaries of doom and changing their sound often such as the excellent Plastic Green Head with its psychedelic influences. The new album feels like a fresh start with nods to their entire career. From a stoner, bluesy feel to their slower traditional doom original sound, there's almost everything for everyone on this album. Thomas is bringing his NOLA roots to the sound and if you like Southern metal/rock, there's a sweet little overtone to be found here especially in his vocals. Let me tell you that I'm not missing Wagner. His voice is powerful and don't be afraid he doesn't sound like a thrash singer most of the time. He kind of does in ''Hunters of Doom'' but it's still pretty enjoyable. The lyrics, more social, sentimental than their usual Christian or psychedelic themes are good, albeit a little too mundane for me. They do evoke the necessary despair for a doom record! I guess they don't really care about that stuff anymore or maybe they really wanted Thomas to sing for the band and based on some of his other bands, not sure he'll praise Jesus!

I'm not the biggest fan of groove and I can't say it would had been my approach of choice for the album but for what it is, it truly works. There's enough heavy riffs to satisfy the purest doomsters though. Such as the excellent last track ''Your Reflection'' with its awesome solos. Nevertheless, they tried to everything on this album, while it's quite diverse, it's also too long with its 13 songs for one hour of music. I had the same criticism for the latest Alice in Chains, while everything is good on both records, their musical genre doesn't need albums that long, a forty five or fifty minutes of material is more than enough. My comparison to the famous Seattle band is not random, I hear some grunge influences here and there such as ''Have I told You'', a very smooth personal song. The album, like most of their releases, have fast paced to mid paced numbers and it flows very well. It's definitely hard to swallow at once because of its length.

A good return for sure, be prepared for a different approach though. It does sound like Trouble since both original guitarists are still in the band but there's a bit more stoner, southern and groovy. It's not a great album but it's nowhere near bad, it has good riffs but some weaker unnecessary songs, I like long records but I prefer when there's longer atmospheric tracks than a bunch of shorter ones and I like the subdued side of the album like on ''The Greying Chill Of Autumn", my favorite track on this release.

Nonetheless, check out The Distortion Field, it proves that the band still has what it needs to write good doom metal in 2013. It's not breaking any new grounds, but it's honest and will kick your ass.

Oh by the way, this cover art is terrible!

Metantoine's Magickal Realm