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Trouble: The Skull (remaster)

If you were following the trends in Heavy Metal around 1985 you would remember that much of the youth population was a fan of the stuff and lines were clearly divided between either Hair Metal, Glam of Hollywood, or the growing Thrash Metal genre from the Bay Area. You did not like one style and the other but instead had a genre of preference. Since this choice had such lines one would hardly expect a bleak and sludge-laden Doom group to find much acceptance or even fans for that matter. Yet despite this division, Trouble managed to do so. The band debuted their brand of strong Sabbath influenced Metal with Psalm 9 just over a year previous to this release and The Skull would continue their quest. The release was darker and more brooding than the first album and the adopted heavy undertones of Black Sabbath worked well for a band when no one else was doing this kind of sound. They also fully utilized the contributions of a twin-lead guitar attack and this allowed the recording to surpass its predecessor tenfold. The themes of Christian vengeance and oppression led to the band suffering a little under that label, but this was hardly the Born Again preaching of bands like Stryper. Eric Wagner's Catholic upbringing would lead him to this lyrical path as opposed to being just another group who sang songs about Satan and his minions. The prominence of these themes is showcased best on "The Wish" (the albums epic 11 minute number) as well as "Pray For The Dead" and "The Skull" (which has moments that seem to be written from the point of view of Christ himself). The Doom style was limited at the time but it would eventually find a stronger footing with bands like Cathedral, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, each of them would owe some credit to Trouble for daring to venture into this style with so much a different scene at hand. It was a great idea to remaster these recordings as the Doom and Stoner genre has blossomed greatly since that time and this now allows new generations of fans to enjoy a band who did it early on and were excellent at it as well. Musically, the remaster holds up well and comes to life once again at proper volumes with the guitars of Wartell and Franklin shining through the dark and booming drumming of Olson. It's packaged in a slipcase with lyrics and photos along with liner notes from Metal Historian Martin Popoff. If that wasn't enough, to make sure you get your moneys worth there is also a live DVD that was filmed in 1984 from one of the bands concerts.

We saw this type of film accompany the Fates Warning CDAwaken The Guardian, and similar to that release this is not professionally shot footage. Quality wise this seems to be nothing more than an audience bootleg that was either done from the soundboard or from a fan in the crowd that night. As a result, the visual side is not that special and might put off some viewers who cant accept this as a historical look back at the band of the time. The sound however is pretty good for its recorded method and age and considering that this footage would probably never surface anywhere else - makes this CD a must have for any Trouble fan or Doom Metal enthusiast. The 90 minute set features material from both the albums they had at the time along with some cover songs. In music today both Wartell and Olson have performed together in the band Wet Animal in 2005, but since then have reformed the original Trouble in 2006. They are recording new material and a tour to support the release and their classics is in the planning stages as well. Seems like the Doom is going to hit us in 2007, so have a care as you walk in the dark.

DVD: Live At Malos in Aurora, IL (11/10/84): Bastards Will Pay, Fear No Evil, Truth Is, What Is, Revelation (Life or Death), Psalm 9, The Last Judgment, Assassin, Pray for the Dead, Heart Full of Soul, Endtime, Run to the Light, The Tempter, Wickedness of Man, The Skull, Children of the Grave, & Tales of Brave Ulysses.

Track Listing
1. Pray For The Dead
2. Fear No Evil
3. The Wish
4. The Truth Is/What Is
5. Wickedness Of Man
6. Gideon
7. The Skull

Added: November 13th 2006
Reviewer: Ken Pierce
Related Link: Trouble Website
Hits: 3732
Language: english

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Trouble: The Skull (remaster)
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-11-13 08:59:11
My Score:

Although Doom was created by the legendary Black Sabbath, bands like Trouble, St. Vitus, and Candlemass kept the spirit alive throughout the 80's by consistently creating product that filled the gap when the mighty Sabs were sputtering. Trouble's 1985 sophomore release The Skull is a smoldering and heavy doom record, perhaps one of the best the genre has ever seen, with seven steamrolling cuts littered with the crushing power chords from guitarists Bruce Franklin & Rick Wartell, pounding drums courtesy of Jeff Olson, Sean McAllister's rumbling bass grooves, and the powerful vocals of Eric Wagner. Not as slow as early Sabbath, but certainly as intense, much of the early Trouble discography had a certain amount in common with the first few Fates Warning albums due to the high pitched vocals and occasional speedy rhythms. Listen to the mountainous riffs and pulverizing drum work on "Gideon", or the massive doom inflected distortion of "The Wish", two great tracks from this album. Other winners here include the rampaging "Pray For the Dead", the killer progressive doom of "Truth Is/What Is", and the somber, moody dread of the title track. This last piece also sounds like something that perhaps influenced Warrel Dane and his first band Sanctuary. Trouble went against the grain as most of their songs had a Christian slant to them, and their spirituality offered up something different when most other bands went off into lands of the occult, Satanism, and horror themes. You can also hear, besides the obvious Black Sabbath influence, a strong hint of early Judas Priest as well, especially in the twin guitar lead department, and Wagner certainly drew on Rob Halford for inspiration.

This deluxe remaster package includes lyrics, an essay by Martin Popoff that includes interview snippets with the band, and a bonus live DVD. The DVD is a full show from the same year, and very poor video quality (mainly one camera angle shot from the audience) but at least you can hear how the band sounds on stage early in their career. It's an important historical document of the band regardless of the quality, and I'm sure will be well received by Trouble's fan base.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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