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Trouble - "The Distortion Field" (CD)

Trouble - "The Distortion Field" CD cover image

"The Distortion Field" track listing:

1. When the Sky Comes Down (5:43)
2. Paranoid Conspiracy (4:06)
3. The Broken Has Spoken (4:12)
4. Sink or Swim (5:55)
5. One Life (6:13)
6. Have I Told You (4:36)
7. Hunters of Doom (4:24)
8. Glass of Lies (5:04)
9. Butterflies (4:52)
10. Sucker (3:43)
11. The Greying Chill of Autumn (5:21)
12. Bleeding Alone (1:35)
13. Your Reflection (5:47)

Reviewed by on July 18, 2013

"For me, 'The Distortion Field' will always cause a distant pain, a foreign unexplainable loss, a deep inner trouble."

Trouble are a legendary band. They were a hit with a litany of classics before even releasing their debut, and past a unique mix of doom and thrash metal they were further characterized by searing vocals, an incredible guitar tone and polarizing Christianity themed lyrics. After a well publicized split from original vocalist Eric Wagner (and replacement vocalist Kory Clarke) the updates about a new album that seemed less and less likely to eventuate became sparse until they surprisingly snapped up Kyle Thomas of ex-Exhorder fame. A match made in heaven? A return to doom thrash glory? Alas it is not to be.

I'll get to the music momentarily but we may as well get down to the burning question on your mind. How does Kyle fit Eric’s rather large shoes? One thing I can say for sure is that his vocals completely alter the Trouble experience. There will be split camps on the new dynamic, but me? It doesn't suit the silhouette. As badly as I of all people want this to work it just isn't my cup of doom. Like a mix somewhere between a gruff Russell Allen of Symphony X, Phil Anselmo, and Crowbar's Kirk Windstein, this album is an ironic reversal of the Exhorder/Pantera debates except this time it's Kyle is following in Phil's vocal footsteps in Down. It's not at all bad; Kyle is competent with the voice he has and doesn't hold back. But it leans on the blues-rock visage much more than Eric's ever mournful wail and is a difficult pill to swallow.

OK, good to get that out of the way. Now for all Trouble's 80s glory, the band achieved the most commercially in the 90s with albums like the self titled "Trouble" (which draws some parallels to Metallica’s "Metallica") and "Manic Frustration," albums that embraced a groovy, pre-grunge psychedelic metal sound. And for what it's worth, Trouble did it well. Damn well. In fact unlike the doom/thrash stalwarts that stopped paying attention to Trouble after "Run to the Light," I've enjoyed everything the group has done right up to 2007's "Simple Mind Condition." "The Distortion Field" is an album that essentially follows straight on from where Trouble left off, but mixes the style in with enough tracks hearkening back to older albums as to serve as a good retrospective of the band’s sound.

So this isn't "Psalm 10," but it has every bit of the Trouble spirit. "When The Sky Comes Down" kicks us off with a bang and a raucous chugging riff that vies against Trouble’s best material, while great chuggers like "Hunters of Doom" or slabs of doom like "Sink or Swim" prove that the band has plenty of killer riffs up its sleeve. Franklin and Wartell have their infamous guitar tones out in full force and I can say I was not let down in this department. Their solos and super thick riffing are the highlights of the record, and for me it’s a reprieve to sit back and know without a doubt I'm listening to a Trouble album.

There are one or two duds - "Have I Told You" sounds like a Pearl Jam B-Side and if you're a fan of their early stuff the upbeat blues tune "Glass of Lies" will make you feel more despair than you thought a doom metal band ever could. But given that the album has 13 tracks, it's not a deal breaker and the rest of the tracks are solid enough to stand up to any later era Trouble.

If you're a Trouble fan, you'll find a killer album if you listen to "The Distortion Field" as if it were from an entirely new band, or perhaps a new Crowbar release. But if you can't make that leap you're going to end up right beside me, constantly chiding yourself for thinking "this album would be better with Eric on vocals, right?" Great music aside, "The Distortion Field" will always cause me a distant pain, a foreign unexplainable loss, a deep inner trouble.

Highs: Classic Trouble riffing highlighted in the opener and the doomy "Sink or Swim"

Lows: Kyle's vocals are going to make or break this for you.

Bottom line: Long time fans of Eric will undoubtedly be disappointed, but there's a gem waiting for those who can go into this with an open heart.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)