Long standing Chicago doom metal veterans Trouble are back. We have said that quite a few times, haven’t we? From a band that always seemed to be the bridesmaid, but never the bride. The band, as great as some of their releases are, has always seemed to be thought of almost as good as Saint Vitus, or almost as good as someone else, but never the innovators.
Of course, we all cut our doom metal teeth on Black Sabbath, but there were the other bands that meant so much to me with Trouble being one of those major players. “Psalm 9” remains one of the most impressive doom metal releases to date. Its subsequent releases were impressive as well.
With 2007, came the release of the under-achieving “Simple Mind Condition,” which was forgettable at best. Once vocalist Eric Wagner left, we knew that Trouble would be in for a rough ride. His legendary vocals are not something that are easily replaceable. In steps Kyle Thomas (Exhorder, Floodgate, Alabama Thunderpussy) with a decent track record and a shining ray of light comes upon the band. Many were very excited about what they would sound like with his style.
The outcome of this major replacement is 2014’s “The Distortion Field,” which leaves me scratching my head a little. On one hand, the album is highly impressive as a collection of various songs and sounds that work well together. On the other hand, I am not sure how much of an improvement this album is over the last album.
Trouble has now become a band that seems to want to sound like C.O.C. and that is not what we expect from a band like Trouble. In Thomas’ defense, he does a pretty good job, but Wagner is sorely missed. Jeff “Oly” Olson followed Wagner out the door and is missed on this release as well. The tracks individually are scattered in quality from some being pretty good and some being not very good at all.
Guitarists Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell sound as good as ever with their tradeoffs and tandem pieces. On that front, Trouble is as good as they have ever been. The drums are hollow and tinny in their sound, which is probably more of a production issue than with the drummer himself, but it detracts from the album. Thomas’ vocals are good at parts, but for the most part, seem forced as if trying to replace Wagner and not trying to be himself.
The (sort of) good about “The Distortion Field” is that there are remnants of that classic sound, but these pieces all sound like previous songs, not original songs. You can listen to a lot of these songs and pinpoint the songs that sound just like them from their back catalog.
Overall, “The Distortion Field” is still a decent release with standouts like When the Sky Comes Down and Hunters of Doom, but songs like Have I Told you leave me wondering what went wrong. Even When the Sky Comes Down sounds like a paint by numbers rendition of classic Trouble and eerily reminds us of The Tempter.
Trouble: The Distortion Field Rating(5.5 / 10)
The Distortion Field Tracklisting
01. When the Sky Comes Down
02. Paranoid Conspiracy
03. The Broken Have Spoken
04. Sink or Swim
05. One Life
06. Have I Told You
07. Hunters of Doom
08. Glass of Lies
11. Bleeding Alone
12. The Grey Chill of Autumn
13. Your Reflection