Without question, any conversation of the origins of American doom metal, or hell, doom metal in general, must include Chicago’s Trouble. Trouble stood out like a sore thumb with their down tuned, chugging, Sabbatharian riffage, plodding rhythms, and spiritual-based lyrics in an 80s metal landscape dominated by butt-rock, hair metal, and thrash. Trouble’s trilogy of records released on Metal Blade Records, 1984s Psalm 9, 1985s The Skull, and 1987s Run To The Light are considered cornerstones of the genre.
Meanwhile, the 1990s saw Trouble get snatched up by Rick Rubin & Def American Records in the wake of the label’s success withThe Cult, Slayer, and Danzig. The band promptly released 1990s Trouble, Rubin’s trademark dry-as-a-bone recording technique on vivid display, changing Trouble’s sound some. However, that record, along with 1992s Manic Frustration (arguably my favorite Trouble record) and 1995s Plastic Green Head saw Trouble expand their sound, adding psychedelic elements to their crunchy, doom riffage, whilst keeping true to themselves. The band disbanded for over a decade before releasing their reunion album Simple Mind Condition to a generally positive reception. Sadly, legendary vocalist, Eric Wagner, passed away last year from compilations due to contacting Covid-19, prompting me to write a eulogy such was his impact.
One For The Road/Unplugged is a reissue of two of the band’s EPs packaged as one and serves as the first posthumous Trouble release since Wagner‘s untimely passing. One For The Road was originally pressed in 1994, for a European tour and limited to only 1500 copies. It’s a good snapshot of where Trouble was in 1994. Freshly booted from Def American for failing to live up to expectations (in other words the band didn’t make the label enough money), and still expanding their sound, there’s plenty of riffs and introspective lyrics.
Opener Goin’ Home is a crunchy, riff-fest that showed up later on Simple Mind Condition. Window Pain is a stomper, in the tradition of the vibe on 1990s Trouble. Both Requiem, a mellower, introspective track, featuring plenty of Wagner’s trademark crooning, and the riff-y, yet melodic Another Day are both from Plastic Green Head. Doom Box is a highlight for sure, a full-on Trouble crunchy, chugging, banger, featuring massive riffs and shred from both guitarists, underrated legends of the genre, Bruce Franklin, and Rick Wartell.
a nice, first-posthumous release for Wagner-era Trouble, reissuing two sought-after EP’s, whilst simultaneously displaying the band’s crunch…
Unplugged, as one would guess, shows the softer side of the band, and they pull it off well. Wagner certainly has the voice for this approach, sounding fantastic on songs like 7.00 Am, Rain (I had forgotten how much Wagner mentions, and/or, pines for rain in his lyrics), and the blues-y swing of Smile.
Plugging back in, Mythic Hero serves some melancholy, while Waiting For The Sun (not The Doors song) reminds me of a cross between 90s Trouble and 90s The Cult with a similar tempo and approach to the UK goth-rock legends. The super-catchy Heartful Of Soul is a killer closer, featuring Franklin’s trademark crunch, as Wagner’s wail is on full display. Unplugged, it bares to mention features only Franklin and Wagner from the original lineup.
One For The Road/Unplugged is a nice, first-posthumous release for Wagner-era Trouble, reissuing two sought-after EP’s, whilst simultaneously displaying the band’s crunch from that era, and offering a softer side as well. For me, while I find it interesting hearing Wagner in that softer, acoustic setting, and those songs sound great, it’s not what I imagine myself reaching for necessarily when embarking on a Trouble-kick, but it’s cool to hear that side of the band for sure. This serves as a nice introduction point for new listeners, and a nice collection for completists.
Scribed by: Martin Williams