Released: 2014, Tee Pee Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Can Wagner/Franklin/Wartell just f@#king hug it out already and get Trouble back together? This is goddam maddening.
After enduring Kory Clarke and six years between albums, the current incarnation of Trouble delivered the less than spectacular THE DISTORTION FIELD. Earlier this year, Eric Wagner returned from sabbatical with his new outfit Blackfinger, which while entertaining, was more of an experiment in Beatles worship than anything. Now, we get The Skull – which is basically a different version of Trouble, sans Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin. Their Tee Pee Records debut FOR THOSE WHICH ARE ASLEEP is definitely more in line with what Trouble fans have been longing for, but it’s still a hit and miss affair that teeters between greatness and mediocrity.
“Trapped Inside My Mind” feels immediately good, the vocal cadence recalling “Plastic Green Head” and a hazy, laid back groove that hits all the right vibe buttons. “Send Judas Down” could’ve been a SIMPLE MIND CONDITION throwaway, while the closing title track is a 7-minute doom epic that intertwines the heavy ballast you love with the melodic melancholy you need. Digital copies of FOR THOSE WHICH ARE ASLEEP include the exceptional “Sometime Yesterday Mourning” single (the best track of the bunch) and a somewhat ironic cover of Trouble’s “The Last Judgment” from the band’s ’83 demo. All great stuff, this is what I’ve been waiting for.
Everything else in between? Not so much. “The Touch of Reality”, “A New Generation”, and “Till the Sun Turns Black” are interchangeable filler; mid-tempo, down tuned doom grooves that don’t grab you with the same hutzpah as their brethren. “Sick of it All” and “the Door” sound like Blackfinger leftovers; musically grandiose efforts that have lots of promise and build up, but without much payoff. Compounding the issue is Wagner’s vocals. He’s all but abandoned any kind of vocal range to speak of in favor of a crooned, almost spoken delivery. When the arrangements are there to support him, it manages to work just fine. When they’re not, it gets downright dull.
So consider this review to be an honest plea to the collective members of Trouble. FOR THOSE WHICH ARE ASLEEP is the latest in a series of “close, but no cigar” albums, intended to demonstrate that certain members can do just fine without other certain members. But the truth is that no matter how good or bad your individual outputs may be, they’re nothing compared to what these guys could do together. FOR THOSE WHICH ARE ASLEEP is available now through Tee Pee Records.