Review Summary: Trouble redefine themselves, and help define what metal is all about.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
Trouble is a name that is seldom mentioned outside of certain circles of metal fans, and never in the mainstream. They have carried on for more than twenty years without ever getting the acclaim that they have deserved. Their influence is far ranging, setting the stage for much of what was to come in the world of metal, being left behind by those who took up the flag. Their first two records, Psalm 9 and The Skull, were the blueprint for American doom metal. Along with Black Sabbath, Trouble had perhaps the most influence on paving the path for all doom to follow.
Thought dead after Run To The Light was released in 1987, produced Rick Rubin rescued the band from the abyss. Coming off his successful work with Slayer and Danzig, Rubin took the band under his wing, and the result was one of the finest metal albums of the 90's, and possibly of all time. Rubin focused the band, streamlining their doom-drenched dirges, excising everything that was not essential to the song. With the fat removed, Trouble was an unstoppable onslaught of crushing metal.
Guitarists Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell's riffs are undeniable. Their heavier than heavy tone has never been replicated, and their simple but groove-laden riffs create an atmosphere of oppression that no black metal band has ever topped. Opener "At The End Of My Daze" taunts the listener with a melodic intro, before the riff drops in and turns the song on its head. The playing is tight, the muted chugging chords as heavy as anything ever recorded at that point. The pair spit out riffs with abandon, packing every inch of the album with infectious guitar work, proving themselves to be among the greatest guitar tandems in metal history. "Psychotic Reaction" and "R.I.P." build on thunderous Black Sabbath styled riffs, laying the template for the stoner rock scene that would soon follow.
Franklin and Wartell are the stars, but vocalist Eric Wagner's unique voice was the final piece in creating the classic Trouble sound. With a high voice and distinct tone, Wagner's shrill howl was the perfect compliment to the dark assault of the musicians. Staying out of the way most of the time, Wagner lets the guitars dominate, weaving his strongest melodies in between the riffs. "The Wolf" and "All Is Forgiven" feature strong choruses, with Wagner pushing his voice to the limit. While not a great singer, he is a startlingly effective vocalist, using the limitations of his voice to give the songs texture amid the straight ahead power of the music.
"The Misery Shows (Act II)" is the longest song on the album, a psychedelic ballad wafting on a trembling clean guitar line and Wagner's most evocative vocal, giving way to a grinding riff in the chorus, topped off with a tasteful solo. It is the one spot of indulgence in an otherwise lean album. Rubin corralled the band, tightening their songs into killer metal attacks, not letting them wander into long instrumental passages. Consequently, every song on the album is a focused statement, moving efficiently from riff to riff, not giving the listener time to soak in what they are hearing.
Compared to Psalm 9 and The Skull, Trouble sounds like a different band. After writing a page in doom history with their first records, Trouble turned their attention to classic heavy metal, turning out one of the hallmark releases of all time. Trouble's name may never come to be identified with what metal should be, but their self-titled album is as close to the mark as anything ever released.