Trouble
Psalm 9/The Skull/Trouble/Manic Frustration (Reissues)

Holy poop on a stick – did you know Chicago’s Trouble have been around since the end of the 1970’s??   – Holy smokes I had no idea.  What we have here is the review/summation of the reissues Psalm 9/The Skull/Trouble/Manic Frustration Hammerheart has put out.  In order, this is the first, second, fourth and fifth Trouble albums.  I will do a shout-out to the third album, Run to the Light, from 1987 and that being one of my favorite Trouble albums needs a remaster as well – probably licensing issues at this point.  Trouble started out as a pure doom metal band, with believe it or not a few little speed metal moments on their earlier releases until morphing into more of a psychedelic doom/stoner metal sound after their self-titled 1990 album – more on the album name and how the band tried to erase the past – but you can’t sneak anything past this guy!

In 1984 Trouble hit the scene with, yes their self-titled album.  The self-titled name was something the band went back and changed in first 1988 to Psalm 9:9 and then again, finally in 1991 as Psalm 9.  This was due to the band changing their image, going big time with their new album, Trouble, on Def Jam Recordings and Rick Rubin’s marketing genius behind the band, in 1990.  Regardless, the Trouble debut album is one of the heaviest doom albums of all time.  They essentially took the classic Sabbath sound and bastardized it more, even throwing in some speedy, almost thrashy moments in songs like “Assassin” and the amazing “Bastards Will Pay”.  The opening song “The Tempter”, still sends chills down my spine.  The band singing about good vs evil throughout the album.  The bonus song – “Tales of Brave Ulysses” is such a great cover from Cream and Trouble really made it their own and it’s still one of the best songs the band has ever done.  For me this album is the best doom metal album ever released and goes perfectly with the doomy album cover.  A year later Trouble released The Skull, more heavy doom with the same type of lyrical themes and “Pray for the Dead” is depressive and chilling still close to 4 decades later.  The band had some speedier songs, such as “Fear No Evil” and the outstanding “Gideon”.  “The Wish” at over 11 minutes was one of the longest metal songs ever released.  An amazing follow-up to their scorching debut, with an excellent album cover bringing forth more of their religious themes of good vs evil, light vs dark.

After the band’s third and monstrous album in 1987, Run to the Light, the band were poached from Metal Blade Records signing to bigwigs, Def American Recordings with Rick Rubin having the band reimage themselves, releasing the fourth album, as a self-titled album and as mentioned above going back to their debut and changing that to Psalm 9, once and for all.  For me, then and now the album cover on the 1990 Trouble album is still lame AF.  The band group photo, surrounded by foliage, in front of some structure, while the members were all clad in black shirts well…it certainly screamed sell-out rather than doom metal, right?  The album cover was meant to sell records and bring in a wider fanbase, to include female fans – and gosh darn dolly it sure did, however, the music was far from a sell-out.  This self-titled album I always enjoyed but was urged more recently, by a friend, Kat from Thronehammer and Bob from Asphyx fame to go back to this and their fifth album – so thank you both.  The songs on this, while still retaining the classic Trouble sound, had catchier guitar hooks and choruses and this was all the influence of Rick “The Genius” Rubin.  The opening track “At the End of My Daze”, with its catchy guitar riffs and chorus is an amazing song.  “Psychotic Reaction” was made into a video and you could not blow your nose for more than 2 seconds without MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball playing this super catchy song around the clock – this helped the band reach international stardom and is the song which put Trouble on the metal map. “The Misery Shows (Act II)” at over 7 minutes is the sequel to “The Misery Shows” on Run to the Light.  “Act II” with it’s catchy vocal melodies, doomy and depressive moody song structure is one of the elite songs in all of doom metal – still to this very day.  This album was more streamlined and had more hooks than the previous Trouble albums, now, while it was not as doomy, still retained their doom metal sound, just with a greater audience appeal. This album is outstanding.

In 1992 the band went into the psychedelic doom/stoner metal with their 5th album Manic Frustration.  Awesome mind-tripping album cover, exuding the stoner edge with the logo and album logo.  Highlights are definitely “Come Touch the Sky”, “’Scuse Me”, “The Sleeper”, the title track and “Memory’s Garden”.  The doomy guitar sound is still there, but the songs have more of a rockin’ feel to them with that stoner edge.  Eric Wagner continuing to have one of the best and most original metal voices, on this album.

In 2006 Escapi Music reissued and remastered both the debut and The Skull in deluxe cd/dvd editions.  I have them both and those are top-shelf reissues of the highest order.  The Skull featuring a full live show to boot, which was ripped right from a VHS tape – such a killer performance – I need to go re-watch, since there are no shows being played now.

Hammerheart has polished up these 4 albums quite nicely.  Regarding bonus content – unfortunately, there are none, which is a shame.  The remastering, on the other hand, is perfection.  Beautiful sound.  Crisp, clear, the heaviness of the dense guitars, especially on the first 2 albums, smack the living hell out of you.  The remastering for all of these was done by Toneshed Studio.  If you do not have any of these albums or reissues, you will want to dip into these, for the upgraded sound and beautiful restoration of the album covers.  Now c’mon Hammerheart go out and get the licensing to remaster Run to the Light!!!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
April 19th, 2021

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