Released: 2014, The Church Within Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
With a soft spoken “Hey There, It’s Me”, Eric Wagner reintroduces himself to his audience after a 7 year absence via his new outfit Blackfinger and their self-titled debut. As Trouble’s last outing (and first studio disc not to feature Wagner) left many fans disappointed or disinterested, there was hope that Blackfinger would be the resurgence of the classic Windy City doom that the man has become so well associated with. And BLACKFINGER does have those moments, but Wagner appears to be saving the ultra-heavy for the upcoming debut from The Skull. Opting to explore a broader swath of musical fancies, Blackfinger indulges in moments of Beatles and Pink Floyd worship equally as much as it does the doom. And while the album doesn’t necessarily rev its engines as loudly as classic Trouble, it still makes for an enjoyable collection of tunes, and is arguably the closest thing we’ll ever get to a true Eric Wagner solo album.
Most of the album’s 11 tracks opt for a mid-tempo, laid back approach – even the more aggressive tunes. Not a negative by any means, but it certainly seems to be a statement of where Wagner’s head is at. “I Am Jon” is a ballsy opening statement; a subdued and brooding power ballad that’s sold entirely on a sultry guitar line and a deep, reserved voice that we haven’t heard in a long time. It’s a gorgeous tune that sets the bar high for the rest of the album. Tracks like “Yellowood”, “Why God”, “Here Comes the Rain”, and “All the Leaves are Brown” are reminiscent of early 90’s Trouble and should please fans jonesin’ for a fix. Of particular note though is the closing track “Til Death Do Us Part”; Wagner has commented in recent interviews that he endured two simultaneous divorces, one with his wife and one with his band. Wagner’s a pretty private dude, but lyrically he puts it all out there – “Did You Forget All the Things I Used to Do for You/Hey, Did You Ever Really Love Me Too/Always Thought That We Would be Together” Wrapped around an ironically upbeat backdrop, the words wring poignantly towards both of the man’s ex’s.
As strong as the more rockin’ material may be, there’s a real presence to those Beatles/Floyd moments referenced earlier. “As Long As I’m With You” is a totally McCartney-esque piano/violin/vocal accompaniment. “Keep Falling Down” is a dark, acoustic ensemble that’s arguably the “heaviest” track of the lot. Tunes like this are the reason that Eric Wagner is revered in doom circles; the man can create more melancholy with an acoustic guitar and his voice than most bands can with a dozen Sun amplifiers. And “For One More Day” unapologetically lifts vocal and melody lines from a bevy of Pink Floyd classics (I dare you not to play the “this sounds like” game), making for a total hippy geek out experience.
Long story short, Blackfinger shouldn’t be entertained as a comparable alternative to Trouble. It’s not, and if you enter into this arrangement under that assumption, you’re gonna be a little disappointed. But for longtime fans (and there’s a bunch of us out there) that are genuinely eager to hear what Mr. Wagner has to say creatively outside of the constraints of his former band, BLACKFINGER offers plenty to enjoy. Welcome back Eric, it’s been too long.