Trouble – Live in Stockholm
Reviewed: August 2022
Released: 2022, Hammerheart Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Trouble are/were/always will be one of the most important bands of the early American doom scene, I don’t think anyone is willing to debate that anymore. Albums like PSALM 9 and RUN TO THE LIGHT created the foundational bedrock for everyone from Candlemass to My Dying Bride to embrace all things slow and melodic. What’s often overlooked, however, is just how powerful the Eric Wagner fronted version of the band was live on stage.
LIVE IN STOCKHOLM was actually released as a DVD back in 2006 and captures a phenomenal greatest hits performance while the band opened for Candlemass a few years prior to that, and though the concert itself is currently on YouTube, as a physical artifact it’s been lost to time until recently. Hammerheart records added the audio tracks from the show to their SIMPLE MIND CONDITION reissue a few months back, but is now releasing LIVE FROM STOCKHOLM on its own for the first time ever on double LP vinyl and digital streaming platforms. Having seen the video of this show ages ago, I’ll admit it’s not exciting viewing. Despite the band playing their hearts out, Wagner (who at this point in his career was notorious for his mind expanding journeys) isn’t particularly animated and doesn’t engage the crowd much outside of the occasional “clap your fucking hands” banter. But not having that visual distraction and being able to focus on solely on the music makes a world of difference.
The anticipation building of opener “R.I.P.” is absolutely palpable as the dynamic guitar duo of Wartell and Franklin weave through the intro, eventually giving way to that monster gallop in the main riff and Wagner’s inimitable voice “looking through the window of destiny” straight up gave me the chills. The first half of the 75-minute set is focused predominantly on material from their Def American records, and seamlessly breezes through a bevy of fan favorites like “End of My Daze” and “Memory’s Garden”, though the title track of ‘95s underrated PLASTIC GREEN HEAD gets some love as well. So much of the 90’s-era sound of Trouble is anchored by the compressed flange in the guitar harmonies and Wagner’s deceptively casual vocals acting as an instrument unique to itself, all of which is gloriously amplified to 11 here.
But the band pulls out all the stops with older classics like “Psalm 9” and the solemnly epic “The Skull”, treating the audience to a masterclass on doom metal. Seriously, these tunes were almost 20 years old already when performed at this show; it’s incredible how fresh and powerful they still sound another 20 years after the fact. And as if Trouble could possible close with anything, the set concludes with the massive fan favorite “The Tempter.” The band exits the stage as inauspiciously as they entered, leaving the audience with nothing but the performance of those 14 songs to reflect upon with awe.
Would a selection of deeper cuts have been more satisfying? Maybe. Is there anything that could’ve made the performance as is any better? Not a damn thing.
Eric Wagner departed this earth almost a year-ago now (where has the time gone) and the Kyle Thomas fronted version of Trouble has been mostly dormant for almost 10 years now, so collections like LIVE IN STOCKHOLM are more important than ever in keeping the flame of Chicago’s doom pioneers alive for the next generation of metal fans. I’ve already got a pre-order in for the vinyl and am like a child waiting for Christmas morning anticipating properly dropping the needle on this record when it releases in early September.