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Christian Metal Done Right - 99%

Superchard, January 18th, 2019
Written based on this version: 1991, CD, Metal Blade Records (Reissue)

Though originally released as a self titled debut, I'd always come to know this album the same way I'm sure most of us have, in retrospect under the 1991 reissue's title Psalm 9. Coming out not even a month after Saint Vitus's self-titled debut, Trouble are considered to be another originator of the doom metal sub-genre, though there's an impeccable difference between all of those early doom metal acts. While Saint Vitus had almost a bit of a punk rock demeanor to it and Pentragram had this 70's Jimi Hendrix hard rock sound fused with Black Sabbath appropriately since they'd been around since the mid 70's, Trouble had devised their own adaptations to set themselves apart their competition. Still very much influenced by Black Sabbath, Trouble took very little of that heavy 70's jam sound as evidence by "Revelation (Life or Death)" while also very much embracing what the 80's thrash scene had brought to the table. Not to mention every single one of their lyrics was based around Christianity. Upon getting noticed for their evil sounding Christian metal, Trouble would get labeled as the first ever "white metal" band, proving that they'd always been considered to be their own thing in some way or another.

Whether it was doom metal or white metal, Trouble were not your average Christian rock band along the likes of Joshua Perahia or Stryper. Many metal heads wouldn't even consider those bands to be heavy metal. While singing about peace, and God's grace, there was still a very sinister heavy metal sound present, and the way in which the lyrics are presented really keep it from feeling like a Sunday gospel, and has thus aged superbly compared to Stryper's cheesy take on Christian rock. I'll provide excerpts of both bands to illustrate my point.

Stryper:
Jesus - King, King of Kings
Jesus - makes me want to sing
He makes me want to jump around
He keeps my feet above the ground
Tonight's the night it's best to rock the land
We're gonna rock for something new
We're gonna rock for something true
Tonight's the night, so let's lift up our hands

vs.

Trouble:
It is said God tempteth no man
Keep in mind you know he can
Listen to one now this we must
For we are all conceived with lust
The tempter, he taketh you brain
We know now who will reign
God says it bringeth forth sin
Take my word it brings on death

...so as you can see, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which lyricist here comes off more sophisticated, and words matter to a large degree, even though I usually find myself not documenting everything a singer is saying. They still very much can carry the overall tone a song has. In this comparison I suppose the words are kind of negligible though, because while Stryper were writing songs that fit the pop rock format with catchy butt rock and bubblegum ballads, Trouble was really kicking ass and taking names with an album that was nothing but crushingly heavy, sinister, epic doom metal that likely set the stage for some of the more melodic bands of the genre to come later such as Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus with the scope of their music feeling so much more deep than most other bands of their time. This is made abundantly clear right from the get-go as "The Tempter" leads in with this haunting percussive performance descending into a spoken word (or should I say screamed word?) doom metal format. You know, the kind of stuff that has made it into a lot of the doom metal we hear more recently.

It's those very moments that make this album what it is, but even as a doom metal fan, I'll admit it would be a little bit of a taxing experience if the album trudged along at this pace the entire time. As much as I love Saint Vitus, I can't listen to them for too long before ultimately wanting to fall asleep. Trouble is not as committed to this slower tempo as some the other bigger name doom metal acts. The opening track shifts back and forth between doom and thrash, "Assassin" is something more along the lines of the opening track to a Saxon album (throw a dart). Some may think this loose commitment to the doomy pace might bastardize the overall mood of the album, but that's far from the case. I wouldn't have it any other way, Trouble come out on top more grandiose than almost anything I could compare them to before during or after 1984 on Psalm 9 whether they're playing the turtle or the hare.

My absolute favorite thing about this album is the way Jeff Olson's drums sound. The reverb on them is perfect, and the whole album has this production to it that sounds as if the band are playing from the heavens above and the decibels of the monstrous guitars are pouring out from the clouds above. Eric Wagner has a voice very reminiscent of Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame. I'm not a huge fan believe it or not of Led Zeppelin, but Wagner's voice is abrasive while being something unexpected from a band like this, especially since the guitars from Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin have this low, almost death metal quality to them, coming about as close as you can get to the tone Iommi had on Master of Reality. Not quite as ahead of its time as the tone Victor Griffin had on Pentagram's self-titled debut, but definitely ensnares a sense of nostalgia to a time long gone.

Buy this album. Get the vinyl and proudly display that gorgeous artwork. Psalm 9 is an absolute must for fans of doom metal, Black Sabbath and even 70's hard rock. The message may be one of love and grace, but there is an ever present feeling of despair and trouble barking up your tree while this album is spinning!

Superchard gets super hard for:
Victim of the Insane
Revelation (Life or Death)
The Tempter

Doom metal cornerstone - 92%

gasmask_colostomy, August 29th, 2017

I had a discussion recently about how Trouble should be classified. As usual, it didn't end conclusively, but there are so many descriptions of the Chicago "doom" band that sail wide of the mark that it seems sensible to recount all of the different categories into which the group fall. In the first place, I just said that they were "doom" because there is certainly some recognizable element of Black Sabbath's early life and bands such as Candlemass, Pentagram, and Witchfinder General enter into the equation when Trouble play slow, not to mention the lyrics that open this album on 'The Tempter': "I am the tempter / Ruler of hell / Bringer of evil / Beware". I mean, how could a song like that not be doom metal, or 'Victim of the Insane' with those crushing slow chords and eerie ringing melodies? Yet there are moments on every Trouble album - moments on almost every song in fact - where the foreboding creep of doom gets thrown out of the window and the riffs leap forward with a clear thrill for the chase, utterly changing the mood and style of the music.

I've seen this labelled several times as doom/thrash, but that's so fucking lazy since not everything fast in metal is thrash, nor do any of the musicians in this band use thrashy techniques that might associate them with the genre. Nor are those speedy interjections anything to do with power metal or extreme metal, using too little double bass and no blastbeats to enter those territories. NWOBHM might have more to do with it, though that's also an easy get-out for any band releasing music in the early '80s (as this album was), especially due to Jeff Olson playing traditional beats on a pretty standard rock drumkit, rather like Joe Hasselvander did on Pentagram's debut. Early Savatage is a reasonably close bedfellow, sometimes lurching onwards like a massive cocky rock band such as on 'The Fall of Lucifer', while the simplicity of some of the chugging riffs in 'Bastards Will Pay' are in the way of Exciter or Raven. As such, I find it helpful to think of Trouble (on this album, which I call Psalm 9, though it was originally self-titled) as playing doom metal with influences from speed metal and whatever drugs Bobby Liebling (from Pentagram) was taking in the '80s because I just can't be hassled with this anymore.

What all that long pre-amble is leading up to is a simple comment: Trouble don't sound like anyone else. Well, hooray for that, since we wouldn't want it any other way! It's a great idea to balance the enormity of doom's scope and seriousness with something a little more vicious and unpredictable, ensuring that the listener is never entirely confident of the direction of the experience, nor is the mood as monotone as with some other doom outfits. The same sort of effect is gained as Pentagram profited from during their best period: one minute, Eric Wagner is warning you of the perils that lurk in the afterlife, then he's shouting "You bastards, you're gonna pay", then Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin are weaving intricate yet exciting solos around the great riffing. There are a lot of options in this style, that's for sure. What Psalm 9 does well and perhaps the main reason why Trouble is remembered as one of the founders of the classic doom genre is that everything fits together very nicely, there are riffs everywhere, and the atmosphere is continually charged despite a few mood shifts.

For this success, the guitarists are key, turning out great hulking doom demons in most of the songs, creepy melodies that give the chills easy as you like, some weird ideas that form a decent instrumental in 'Endtime', and top-class melodic leads that take the listener on a journey rather than just shredding noisily. There's little to complain about in the rhythm department too, with Jeff Olson doing everything he can to smooth the divide between slow and faster material, battling heroically with the fills in 'The Tempter', while Sean McAllister could perhaps be credited for doing what Leif Edling took all the credit for by using his bass as an extra guitar to create the broad boom of true crushing doom. Eric Wagner is of course the masterstroke, seeing as this kind of music needs a charismatic vocalist: he isn't showy like Messiah Marcolin or ropey like Ozzy and Bobby Liebling, probably coming closest to Scott Reagers, not so much in the torturously slow wails of the Saint Vitus vocalist but from the real-world strain and stress that he gets into his delivery, along with a deceptively wide range that he uses at times.

All this sounds like a lot of importance placed on an album that clocks in at under 40 minutes and hasn't aged terribly well since being recorded, the quietness of the bassy sound being a slight challenge to overcome at first. However, it's difficult to find songs to criticize, since there is a slightly different facet of the band shown in each one. 'The Tempter' is maybe the mother of all doom openers (yes, even that one) and has a main riff that utterly epitomizes the "second wave" of doom, while the changes of pace are skilfully handled, adding to the drama of the song. There are genuinely creepy moments in 'Revelation (Life or Death)', 'Victim of the Insane', and 'Psalm 9', the opening of the latter proving one of the finest examples of narration in any metal song and the darkest use of true religious themes (we're not talking black metal here) I can call to mind. Balancing the thunderous power chords and menacing melodies, the shorter 'Assassin' and 'Bastards Will Pay' are well-judged, especially the sweary shouting in the refrain, which is about as fun as Trouble get. 'The Fall of Lucifer' and 'Endtime' represent the weakest part of the album, the former missing the high standards of riffing exhibited elsewhere, while the instrumental is worthy of inclusion but cannot cap the drama of the other songs, partly due to some disorganized soloing.

Before writing this review, I don't think I had a full grasp of just how complete a package Psalm 9 really is, but considering that this was released in 1984, prior to the full-length debuts of almost every other doom band (I'm not sure if Witchfinder General really count as true doom, while Saint Vitus pipped Trouble to the post by one month) there is a great deal of praise to give to the five-piece for the tightness of their first effort. It's possible that the band found their feet more steadily by the excellent Run to the Light, though for sheer ideas and groundbreaking generic tropes, this ranks as one of the finest releases of the '80s. Bow down before it.

Smiling skull with tree toupee - 98%

Acrobat, November 2nd, 2013

Trouble’s early work and, in particular, this album represent everything that doom metal should be (but so often isn’t). Think about it, here’s a band who are really rather diverse – with regard to tempo, arrangements and mood – and are not afraid to break the mould of what’s typically expected of a doom band. For 1984, too, this is an incredibly contemporary record; it’s doom to the bone, but also thrashy and featuring some, for the time, modern heavy metal touches. After all, some of the ‘The Assassin’s riffs wouldn’t sound out-of-place on, say, Screaming for Vengeance or Defenders of the Faith, although its mid-section is basically a doomified version of Alice Cooper’s ‘Unfinished Sweet’. At its heart there’s nothing regressive or throw-backy about this record (alright, so, the band cover Cream and wear big flares but their music is really cutting edge for its time). Honestly, it makes me laugh when stuff like this is called ‘traditional doom metal’; what the fuck is traditional about it? Bands like Trouble and Candlemass weren’t operating in an established tradition they were forging their own sound.

Too often I hear doom bands who really take the metal out of doom. There’s psychedelic rock bands masquerading as metal simply because they sing about witches and satan, there’s probably a whole spat of Rise Above bands who think Iron Maiden is “too cheesy” and don’t even know who Running Wild are and that’s not even to mention how many funeral or death-doom bands records have more in common with, say, ambient or goth rock than their supposed parent genre (not that that's a particular problem as Skepticism rule). Keith Richards once said that a big problem with rock music is that people forgot the “roll” part and when he listens to rock he needs that roll, too! Well, when I listen to doom, I need that metal part! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played a doom release and thought to myself “Yeah, it’s okay, but they could have really used a solo here or a tempo change here”. Doom nowadays often seems to have been a byword for “play slow, minimise your metallic leanings”. I’m not saying that there aren’t bands who are delivering what I want but it’s a sad state of affairs to listen to an otherwise ‘traditional’ doom metal album and hear nothing resembling a lead guitar part or an up-tempo break. Of course, Psalm 9 is the answer to my prayers as it has lead guitar and fast parts in abundance. Contrast is key to its success and every stomping, down-trodden riff is offset by a fast break. Trouble love playing slow, but damn, they’ll rip your fucking face off, too!

I’m kind of baffled that not many doom bands seem to have followed in Trouble’s footsteps. Sure, early Cathedral had their Trouble-aping moments on, say, ‘Soul Sacrifice’ and indeed on Forest of Equilibrium there are moments wherein they utilise the patented Trouble guitar harmony or even copy a solo note for note. But outside of that I’m really struggling to think of much doom that reminds me of Trouble’s compositional approach (although you can certainly find some other, cool “fast doom” like the first half of Saint Vitus’s debut and most of the Hallow's Victim album and bands like Solstice or Procession definitely aren’t adverse to writing up-tempo doom). In fact, the closest I’ve ever come to getting that early Trouble vibe outside of the band’s first three records is Tyrant’s Too Late to Pray. Tellingly, Tyrant are a heavy metal band with Christian lyrics who aren’t afraid of the odd Sabbath-y riff, whereas Trouble are a doom metal band who aren’t afraid of heavy metal riffs (again, both were Metal Blade bands with the should-be-legendary Bill Metoyer on production/engineering duties). I guess the doom scene thought it would be better off if it became static and plodding instead of using Trouble’s model of hyper-kinetic doom metal, huh?

That’s really what’s so great about Trouble; they’re never content to stand still, the music is constantly going somewhere. They’re throwing out riffs left, right and centre and still writing cohesive, memorable songs. I can’t tell you how many of my favourite riffs/solos/fills are on this album, too. Every song just has several “Fucking hell, this is amazing!” moments. Every time I hear the title-track I’m just reduced to a quivering mass of gooseflesh. Eric Wagner’s ‘king of the harpies’ vocals, the Priest-gone-doom guitar delivery and that staggering rhythm section. You can tell that this is a band who have just been locked-up in a rehearsal room for years, playing to the walls, with minimal contact with the outside world. How else could have Trouble perfected a sound that’s so unique, so tight and so fucking monstrously heavy? It’s ominous like a stormy sky and really it just does feel like a force of nature.

I often think that doom metal is both one of my favourite and least favourite sub-genres of metal. It’s become predictable, worn and cliché ridden (as any twat can “tune low and play slow” and put me to sleep in the process) but when it’s on, it’s probably the heaviest, most powerful music imaginable. Still, to this day, I’ve not heard many records that are as blisteringly heavy as this; like a ghost-train hammering down on its way to Hell, Trouble are just an unstoppable force on this record. That guitar sound, those thunderous drums, some of the best tracks in all of metal and Eric Wagner giving what is certainly one of the most commanding vocal performances I’ve ever heard (apparently, this album contains lyrics from an ancient Israeli king, who I don’t think was a Trouble fan – but I’m sure he would have approved of Eric’s delivery). For 1984 this is only second to Don’t Break the Oath, which is probably the greatest album of all time, and, tellingly, I think a band like Trouble have more in common musically with Mercyful Fate than they do with, say, Reverend Bizarre. Boring modern doom with its slower-than-thou ambitions can fuck off… Hail Trouble!

Psalm 9 - 80%

Epilogue, July 2nd, 2008

Sometime in the year of 1979, five men in the Chicago, Illinois area decided to form a band, drawing influences from Black Sabbath, classic rock and, later on, psychedelic music. These men were Eric Wagner (vocals), Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell (guitars), Sean McAllister (bass), and Jeff Olson (drums). With these creative people at work, they reinvented the sound created by their heroes of Black Sabbath for a new decade, and thus these legendary forerunners of Doom, Trouble, released this (at first eponymous, later changed to Psalm 9) debut in 1984, with a large cult following thereafter. And it’s not hard to see why. With tempo changes executed flawlessly within songs, a dark, sludgy tone, magnificent songwriting, and other superior aspects, Psalm 9 remains a pinnacle release and continues to influence today.

And a lot of that comes from the guitar front. Riff driven, the album is, and many great ones are heard here. From harmonization of huge, chunky riffs, to trampling semi thrash palm-muted riffage, Psalm 9 covers ground on an ample level. What makes the riffs that much more murky, heavy, and strong is the tone; very low ended and thick yet with an abrasive touch for aggressive listening, along with downed-tuning, some bear the reminisce of Candlemass. Still, snarling low register chords sound well produced and distinctive among all the instruments, while retaining the immensely evil sound that is the ‘theme’ for the album.

Solos are also prominent, and should be; they’re actually structured and melodic, apart from the blistering fast shred of Thrash Metal acts of the time. Tapping is well liked by the guitars, as featured in a lot of songs. However it is not tiring, nor does it sound overdone or old. Sweeps are sometimes found too, along with aspects of soloing that fit the album accordingly, such as long vibratos, legato notes, slow tempos, etc. And aside from the crunch and the solo, we have the low end of the strings, the bass, which is a very important aspect for the atmosphere prospect of the album. While not quite doing anything technically impressive (it follows the guitar almost exclusively), it is a very important part of the album to give it even more sludgy sound. Plus, it wouldn’t sound right if a funky bass line was smack dab in the middle of any song in this record, so technicality is not an issue at all here. Sean gets the job done, and that’s all we need.

Jeff Olson has some impressive efforts here. His drumming is flawlessly tight with the other instruments of the album, working together very well. My favorite from him off this is the fifth track, Bastards Will Pay, with a standalone double kick part and perfect accents where they need to be, complimenting the guitars. Mr. Olson has some quirky fills and patterns, but its really structured and thought out, like the solos. Nothing is wrong with his sound either. His cymbals, hi hat, etc. sound crisp, a somewhat appreciated break from all the opaque sound of the rest of the album. The rest of his kit, however, sounds exactly as they should; in line with the rest of the album. Dense.

And now for, probably the most distinctive part of the album, the vocals. Mr. Wagner is a unique, yet on the fence, vocalist. I personally neither love him nor hate him, I think he is just good, and that flies with me. Eric is somewhat the sonic counterpart of the album. He has a high voice, at least singing voice, that he uses kind of sloppily. Sometimes he can be heard on the verge of operatic (though nowhere near the likes of Doomsword or Candlemass), but mostly he likes his shout. Not a scream, not a yelp, or a growl; a shout. I really can’t explain it better than that, except that his voice has a lot of reverb, which is a plus to the album because it adds to the gloomy aspect of Trouble’s first album.

So here we have it, Psalm 9. A grand showcase pointing out all that this band is known for; groovy, heavy riffing, deep sound, slow tempos, pulsing drums… Trouble’s debut will hopefully be remembered not only for being a great album, but for impacting Doom as we know it. For reinventing the blueprints made by Black Sabbath. And for bringing together Cathedral.

Life affirming excellence - 92%

caspian, February 26th, 2008

Now THIS is a crushing record! Being someone who doesn't really have any idea about the early 80's scene, it seems like most 'classics' from that time seem to be a bit weak- certainly not uninspired, but quite hard for me to enjoy- thrash hadn't yet came around and made everything faster and heavier, and early 80's production just doesn't really cut it for me. The end result are a large amount of albums that I can 'appreciate', but that I'd very rarely listen to.

Trouble, however, manage to avoid those pitfalls. Perhaps it's the fact that the guitars are a lot heavier then most other bands I've heard from this age (that anecdote UB mentions with Hetfield certainly seems quite true- certainly Metallica's guitar tone thickened up a great deal after their first album!). It certainly helps that Trouble have a knack for mixing huge, glacier-paced doom riffs with some excellent speed/proto-thrash riffing, both of which complement the other perfectly.

That's probably the first thing I noticed about this album, really. The doom stuff I usually listen too is that which plods along at a glacier like pace and stays there for the remainder of the release, whereas these guys actually mix it up. The huge (relatively) speedy riff in 'Tempter' basically made me cream my pants when I first heard it, and it's followed up by the absolutely massive (MASSIVE) tune that is 'Assassin', possibly the best song ever- mid paced metal at it's finest, one of those songs that commands you to headbang until your neck snaps and you shit your pants. Or something like that, anyway.

And on it goes. Admittedly, it's hard to come up with that many 'sounds like' kind of comparisons (not really having much knowledge of this sort of music), but there's plenty of goodness throughout the album. 'Victims of the Insane' is another excellent tune in a slower, perhaps more sabbathian kind of vein- a lot slower and darker, anyway, will 'Bastards will Pay' is a faster, heavier tune that brings to mind more speed metal kind of associations (maybe, anyway), with an excellent solo and just good times all round.

Ultimately, this is one of those rare old school metal albums that delivers for me. The songwriting is excellent, with the slower and faster riffs mixed into a package that's far more cohesive then it should be. The lyrics are excellent, and while some people will doubtlessly find the singer to be a bit annoying (imagine a much screechier Ozzy), you get used to his sound pretty quickly- he's not that bad a singer, and his vocal lines are really catchy. Overall, it's hard to deny the sheer awesomeness of this album, and anyone who claims to like doom, or speed metal, or even thrash should go out and have a look at this album.

33 years later they're still saying 'holy crap'. - 94%

Gutterscream, April 15th, 2005
Written based on this version: 1984, 12" vinyl, Metal Blade Records (Colored vinyl)

"We are not holy men, but at least we try..."

Trouble didn’t have a name like Hellhammer or Anthrax to help conjure cool mental images of what they would sound like. They didn’t have fiery stage shows or stage aliases straight out of The Road Warrior. The cover of their originally titleless lp didn’t depict a street riot or gladiators halberding each other in the groin. All these Chicago natives had was their music. Unwittingly, they even plowed over a few boundaries.

With their sludgy Sabbath-y gait and Eric Wagner's Zeppelin-esque vocals (and the band's post-hippie dress with brown tasseled jackets and the early '70s straight, matted hair), Trouble was a retro band even before the term. In addition, they were one of the first Christian metal band (not rock, metal), as Stryper, Saint, and Messiah Prophet affixed their halos sometime in ’84 as well (ed. - after some research, it turns out Swedish band Leviticus predates 'em by two years and two releases). Of course, the time it takes to sneeze is all one would need to tell the differences between Trouble and their peers. Throw this all together and we have quite a band, and with their holy, lumbering brew they afforded us some of the best early doom metal money can buy. The fact of the matter is that the band’s much-heralded debut is just as much long established traditional as it is doom.

On a tribal wind, "The Tempter" arrives in true doom-step fashion. The pace jogs up to what is probably the quickest this five-piece will ever play throughout its long, albeit modest career, giving the listener a false sense of expectation by sounding fairly traditional with moments of sludge. The song’s lyrics also tread deceitful waters, written from the view of the track’s namesake. "Assassin" continues this aural pretense with Wagner’s angry eagle vox soaring over the still traditional trotting rate, but here the lyrical mindset starts its change with a tone of disapproval toward the treacherous. With “Victim of the Insane” the doomsayers reveal their true power, marching forth (...dundt, dundt, dundt, dundt, dundt...love it) with faint organ backdropping a fine cesspool of plod, then the keys become hallowed, nearly churchy, heightening the thespian chorus that can unfurl feelings of strength, uprising, and vengeance…

"I’m so tired of hearing that I’m wrong.
Everyone laughs at me. Why me?
I’m so tired of being pushed around.
I feel like I’ve been betrayed."


...in those embroiled in the track. "Revelation (Life or Death)" possesses three main riffs, one sludgy and powerful that reappears slightly changed when more involved percussion enter the fray later on, one in the classic breaking mold that absorbs the main verse, and one more brisk where the last verses run rampant. Back to back are “Bastards Will Pay” and "The Fall of Lucifer", two mostly swift and driving numbers of anti-“you make us fight in your stupid”-war and anti-“join hands give praise to the Lord”-evil. In the middle of it all is "Endtime", easily one of the better wordless wonders out there coiling stout endemic rhythms like one would bend paperclips. “Psalm 9”, my first experience with the band way back when, is unpolluted in its doomsday stride, the lyrics at their most untainted, and a harbinger to the sound that will instigate many a band to come. This song and its closing line of “...God loves us all...” dramatically ends the lp with a message that was contradictory to most at the time, but on the CD version, the Cream cover “Tales of Brave Ulysses” is given the honor, and unfortunately doesn’t do much to make me like it anymore than I do the original.

The underlying beauty of this lp is that it was released about two inches from the birth of the thrash movement, yet doesn’t indicate any such consciousness. If the songs were written and recorded in, say, ’86, one could argue that they were going against the grain just to do something different, but their agenda was galvanized from the start. With a perfectly strong guitar tone and a production that sits just fine with me, the very non-traditional lyrics find a wooden crate to stand on without becoming preachy, and are another testament to Trouble’s originality and daring.

PS. If you want to hear one helluva threatening, brackish dirge by the band, find their ’83 demo or Metal Massacre IV compilation and let “The Last Judgement” trudge forth from your speakers like the juggernaut it is.

The most powerful, thrashy doom metal album ever - 88%

UltraBoris, March 6th, 2003

This is one of the finest doom metal albums ever made, for the simple reason that it knows when to throw in the well-timed thrash riff. Usually it plods along in a slow, heavy-as-fuck manner, smashing the opposition directly in front of it with its brutal guitar tone and insane vocals, but every once in a while it speeds up and you get something not all that far removed from Vio-lence. Given that this came out in 1984... this is quite the accomplishment! This is heavier and darker than Ride the Lightning and even Chemical Warfare.

First... The Tempter. Slow "Black Sabbath"-like intro goes into the main verse riff. BANG YOUR FUCKING HEAD!!! This riff staples a fucking chain to the side of your skull and forcibly agitates your cranium at 216 beats per minute until you expire at least three or four times. Combine that with the midpaced break riffs, including the total Mercyful Fate-esque middle part under the solo, this is one fucking riff monster of a song. It manages to be epic, thrashy, slow, fast, heavy, brutal - a total mishmash of ideas, and it manages to pull them together very competently.

Then, Assassin starts off pretty fast with a typical power-metal melody, except that insane guitar tone and the sheer riffage tells you that this is sort of like Ample Destruction... sort of. More like "completely far more destruction than you would ever need, and then a whole fuckload more, and oh yeah while we were there we ate your grandmother too".

Victim of the Insane starts off more slow and brooding, though still not quite a Sabbath crawl - until the second riff set under the verse, which is total Tony-Iommi-and-friends worship. This continues for a few minutes before leading into a great solo section - which then explodes with a scream into total fucking thrash riffage!! If they had kept this style for an entire album, they would've come up with something that rivalled Kill 'em All, especially if they had gotten it out in 1981-82, when most of the stuff was written. (In fact, at some point in 1983, James Hetfield went to a Trouble show, and ran onto the stage to try to discern the amp and effect settings that resulted in that vicious heaviness!)

Anyway - back to track four. This is apparently a Christian song. Oh well, doesn't bother me. They could be singing about the fucking Energizer bunny - with riffs that strong, it would make no difference. This song has some solid groove which then goes into destructive riffage at around 2.15 in, and then a solid fucking metal riff that Pantera wishes they could've come up with... the most groove ever - Overkill kindly lifted it for Spiritual Void, but this one is about a billion times heavier. "We don't need no sympathy!!!" Then another slower section. The juxtaposition of fast and slow parts is done incredibly well - this isn't just the "let's speed up a bit in the middle" of Overkill "The Answer" or whatnot, it's far more complex and very effective.

Bastards will Pay - strong speedish thrash riff opener, not all that much removed from a Megadeth "Peace Sells" era riff, or perhaps some Metal Church work. This is pretty evident in the main solo as well. Then about two minutes in, we get some more Black Sabbath-like work, which goes back into more speed metal insanity. "You fucking bastards, you're gonna pay!!" Excellent stuff.

The Fall of Lucifer is more thrash riffage from the beginning, with some more power-metallish riffs thrown in - imagine Artillery "Back in the Trash" from the power/thrash masterpiece By Inheritance. It's close to that, though a bit less overtly melodic. Then a total change at around 3.15 in results in a riff that is not unlike Tony Iommi on one of his faster days, before slowing down somewhat (the riff, not Mr. Iommi!) and going into an insane solo part to conclude.

Endtime is a bit more out there in the beginning, almost going into an "I am Iron Man!!!" moment a few times, before a monster riff explodes out of nowhere, teasing the listener for a few seconds before going back to a slower doom riff backbone over deranged, psychadelic soloing. This would be a direction the band would pursue extensively later in their career. The riffs come in earnest around 2.40 in, solid doom riffage that slowly folds, spins, and mutilates the listener before supergluing his eyelids together and leaving him to die in a gravitational field just outside a 12th story window. Excellent stuff.

The title track starts off with some random spoken vocals, which then goes into a midpaced, bludgeoning thrash riff - something not all that far removed from the first Artillery demo, or even Fear of Tomorrow. More insane vocals follow a generally straightforward approach to this song which then turns into an all-out thrasher around 2.19 in with some fast riffs alternating with some crazy soloing, before the leads continue, but over more midpaced riffing this time. Then a second section starts with some more choppy riffing, not all that far removed from the middle section of Overkill "Horrorscope" - again, Pantera wish they had this much groove without any of the stupidity of a riff like "This Love".

The last song is a bit different, as it is a cover... the late 60s classic rock riffs totally come to light here - still, Cream was pretty much a metal band, and this song is very fucking heavy. The vocals are brought into a slight bit more prominence, and there is nearly constant soloing to match some interludes. Probably the most experimental song on here, in that late 60s LSD sense of the word. This is a very good choice of a cover song, especially given Trouble's later direction.

So note that in most of my references, other than Black Sabbath, I alluded to LATER bands. Yep, this album was way the fuck ahead of its time. A monster combination of doom and thrash, with a lot of mid-80s power-metal riffage thrown in, just with a heaviness unknown to any band except Sabbath of course. If you like that, or Overkill, or just in general classic HEAVY FUCKING METAL, this is completely down your alley.