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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.