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The Hurried, Urgent Side of the Doom Metal Parade - 96%

bayern, May 17th, 2017

Trouble are an interesting band; they fall into two categories: the doom and the Christian metal one. However, they don’t epitomize either of them fully; they tended to be quite fast and aggressive for the former, and were not enough preachy and dogmatic for the latter. I’m writing in past tense cause the band under its new form isn’t exactly the band it used to be despite the omnipresence of the old Rick Wartell/Bruce Franklin guitar duo. You know what I mean, the absence of this inimitable high-strung throat called Eric Wagner…

Yes, it’s difficult to accept the band without him wailing heart-rendingly behind the mike. His unique croon is a most characteristic feature from the band’s early repertoire that had a really auspicious start in the form of the excellent self-titled debut which combined sorrowful Sabbath-esque dirges with sudden thrashy outbursts of fury, a one-of-a-kind combination that attracted a wider range of fans. Not willing to lose the inertia, the guys nailed down the album reviewed here less than a year later. Not surprisingly, the style is pretty much the same the band further honing their original approach. The elegiac balladic beginning of the opening title-track is the best possible introduction into the sombre, dark world of the band, Wagner soaring above the proceedings with a hypnotic, levelled timbre; as the riffs become more dynamic and more intense so does the vocal performance the man hitting the higher registers with brilliant melodic tunes flying around reaching some kind of a culmination at the end. “Pray for the Dead” rises amidst a whirlwind of virtuous leads before a superb melodic inauguration announces the arrival of one of the finest doom metal anthems in the annals of the genre with the dramatic chorus, the versatile vocal exploits, the gorgeous leads, and the heavy seismic riffage.

We’ll all start praying for the dead for sure after such a masterpiece although the following “Fear no Evil” is a much faster proposition the guys bringing the winds of speed metal in a truly marvellous fashion before the magnanimous elegy that “The Wish” is, a nearly 12-min saga which begins with more balladic sorrow before the ship-sinking riffage settles in with Wagner ruling the proceedings with operatic, Robert Plant-like pathos his soulful tirades floating above the morose sea of heavy unperturbed guitars which stride is enhanced by a supreme lead break that any Shrapnel performer would die for; the more energetic delivery in the second half brings Sabbath’s more vivid material to mind with the leads providing a compelling finale. “The Truth is What is” contains one of Wagner’s most memorable lines and is another doom metal highlight with Sabbath-esque leanings and a few bluesy histrionics not to mention the fever-pitch speedy epitaph. “Wickedness of Man” starts as mournful doom at its finest, but the guys step on the pedal before long and unleash a couple of admirable impetuous gallops in the middle although the sombre heavy tone isn’t broken that much by these faster-paced additives that acquire a fuller shape on “Gideon” which rages forward with sharp cutting riffs and a wider array of rhythmic changes.

Wartell and Franklin are simply too good to be restricted to slow doomy chords exclusively. Their more proficient, also more dynamic side cries out for expression hence the frequent speedy “skirmishes” which bring some of the most dazzling guitar work ever encountered on a supposed doom metal recording, second only to Mike Wead’s pyrotechnics on the Memento Mori and Abstrakt Algebra efforts. Because of these guys’ wizardry the Trouble albums, at least the first four, stuck out of the pack easily making it hard for the audience to place them in just one particular niche. On the other hand, if you think of it, even Black Sabbath themselves experimented extensively outside the doom metal parametres (just remember “Children of the Grave” and “Symptom of the Universe” for two of the more prominent examples) leaving the “doom” tag describing the mood, the atmosphere and the overall guitar tone rather than the pace and the dynamics within. Even the leaders Candlemass have been tempted by the speed and aggression almost turning their “Ancient Dreams” opus into a thrash metal fiesta because of that. However, for our friends here the faster ways of execution have always played a significant role, and they took bigger proportions on their future works delineating them from the doom metal brotherhood.

In this train of thought this “skull” here remains their biggest legacy to said brotherhood alongside the debut. Trouble were just too “troublesome” to remain squared in the company of Saint Vitus, Pentagram and the likes although both their albums after the reformation in the new millennium have their hefty doomy vibes with the psychedelic flavour from their 90’s period still felt in the air. They have to be more careful now as they have a strong competition from The Skull… no, not the album reviewed here, the new Eric Wagner project started in 2012 which is another fine addition to the doom metal roster, paying tribute to their finest hour with the band name, and not only. The Trouble fans should be happy since they will have more than one act to follow; the doom metal parade will always find a room for one more “skull” be it slow or coming with a pleasant shade of speed.