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Review: Trouble - The Skull
The Skull

Label: Metal Blade Records
Year released: 1985
Duration: 43:18
Tracks: 7
Genre: Doom Metal


Review online: January 5, 2010
Reviewed by: Adam Kohrman
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Rated 4.18/5 (83.64%) (33 Votes)

Now, this is doom done right. After sweeping the metal world off their feet with their debut Psalm 9 just a year prior, doom metallers Trouble released their second and best album, The Skull, in 1985. Back then, this album was new and pioneering in the genre, as Candlemass didn't even come around until a few years later.

Let's get the pink elephant in the room: this is a Christian album. If that's a problem, stop reading now. The way I see it, I've listened to dozens of bands that preach Satanism (whether faux or sincere) for years. I'm just as much a Satanist as I am a Christian, so I have no reservations in listening to this album. Frankly, King Diamond's lyrical adoration of Satan is far more blind and overt than Trouble's adoration of the Christian God.

Now that that's out of the way, back to the album!

This is gritty and gloomy. Almost as if made during their darkest and most depressed hour, Trouble's music evokes solemn -- and even suicidal moods. Low tuned blues riffs roll up and down; consistently feeling just as morose as the lyrics and vocals. Opening up with a towering groove, the song "Pray for the Dead," with its repetitious squealed chorus is a dreary emblem of the rest of the album. Each riff flows like water down a mountain, twisting and turning in the direction in which it freely decides to move. Eric Wagner's voice is whiny, slightly nasal, and understated. He understands when he should yield to his guitar players, and here, that's pretty much all the time. In contrast to other classic doom vocalists, Wagner never dabbles in vocal histrionics, leaving his voice subtle, yet still disturbed and emotive. "The Wish" is the album's standout song, an 11 minute epic about looking for spiritual assistance when feeling suicidal. Its countless riffs, three solos, and drawn out melodies are both tragic and uplifting, at times exhibiting a break in the album's surrounding misery.

Despite The Skull's influence, it becomes a tad repetitive and staid by the end. The final songs like "Gideon" and "The Skull" do not differ at all from the previous tracks, made up of the same blues inspired riffs and compositions. As a result, the songs' are less interesting, feeling contrived. They've all been played before, and in this case, on the same album. That isn't to say these songs aren't good, because they are. They just lack the prowess and morose potency of the earlier songs on the album.

The Skull is an essential early doom metal album. Happiness is nearly absent on this release, leaving it dabbling in spiritual melancholy and sadness. The riffing is bluesy and driven, despite becoming a bit repetitive towards the end. The Skull not only is a powerful and evocative release, it is an important one, coming before many of the other heralded forefathers of the genre.

More about Trouble...
Review: Psalm 9 (reviewed by Hermer Arroyo)
Review: Run to the Light (Expanded Edition) (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Review: Trouble (reviewed by Adam Kohrman)
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