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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