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Review: Trouble – ‘The Distortion Field’

When you take a step back and look at the current metal scene, the word “oversaturated” may come to mind. I’ll take it one step further: too many bands, too many albums, and too much mediocrity to sift through. This is especially true within the doom genre and its endless offshoots. Tune to B, write 12-minute dirges, and that 20 Buck Spin deal is just around the corner, right? I am Jack’s eyes glazing over in stupefied boredom. Riffs matter, passion matters, and none of it means anything without integrity and originality backing it up. I love Black Sabbath and always will, but 13 is a polished turd. The Distortion Field, however, is what a band that still cares sounds like.

The big news for Trouble is the addition of Kyle Thomas (Exhorder, Floodgate, etc.) as permanent lead vocalist. When a classic band loses their singer, especially one as idiosyncratic and identifiable as Eric Wagner, some backlash is expected. But you’d have to dig deep to find any real flaws in Thomas’ delivery. He is one of the most unheralded vocal talents in metal history, possessing an incredible range and strength that enhances the gruff timbre of his voice. It’s the perfect front line for Trouble’s artillery of classic doom.

From their traditional beginnings through the psychedelic/”alt”-type rock of the late 90s, Trouble has always had a penchant for mid-tempo grooves. There is no shortage of them here: from “Paranoia Conspiracy” to “Glass Of Lies” to album-closer “Your Reflection”, each song’s rhythmic foundation is rock solid. Guitarists Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin, the only founding band members left, write riffs and solos that induce finger-drumming on steering wheels and involuntary head-nodding. The chugging “Hunters Of Doom” is magnificently simplistic yet evokes more emotion than any Om song I’ve ever heard.

Even among the talented classic US doom revivalists like Pallbearer and Hour Of 13, The Distortion Field stands out in the crowd. There’s no doubt that albums like Trouble and Psalm 9 were influences on those bands and countless others. In an interview last year, Phil Anselmo put it succinctly: “Lord knows without Trouble, Down would be in trouble.” There are no “drone” or “experimental” passages here. The Distortion Field should come with a scale-model Dodge Challenger and a 12-pack of Schlitz. Why? If you have to ask, you’ll never know.

Chris Rowella

Stream selections from the LP below, courtesy of Decibel Magazine.

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