Trouble – Album Review

Trouble – One for the Road/Unplugged

Hammerheart Records

Release date: 11/02/2022

Running time: 67 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

The mighty Trouble!  A release from these titans of doom metal is always worth celebration, and this is no exception.  Back in the early 90s, this cult band were verged on the edge of a mainstream breakthrough, with two albums on the Rick Rubin helmed Def American Records (also home to Slayer, Danzig, Black Crowes and others).  Alas, it was not to be: this eternal underground favourite was to remain just that. 

“One for the Road” followed the second, self-titled Def American album, as a limited-edition European tour EP.  This re-release bundles that with a full length “unplugged” album: remastered to provide a fully upgraded compilation.

The first five songs comprise that “One for the Road” EP, with first track ‘Goin’ Home’ bursting from the speakers with exactly the kind of exciting hard rock you’d expect as a Trouble opener.  ‘Window Pain’ offers a pulsating, mid paced doom rocker, whilst ‘Requiem’ brings the tempo down further with a melancholy, gloomy metal dirge.  The Black Sabbath influence is most obvious on ‘Another Day’, whilst ‘Doom Box’ raises the tempo a little but still holds a candle to Dio era Sabs.  Some of these songs would turn up in different form on later albums, but this EP brings together an excellent capsule that fits neatly into that mid 90s period.

Back in the early/mid 90’s, “unplugged” albums were all the rage.  Like others of that era, this Trouble entry into that genre isn’t always stripped down totally to just vocals and acoustic guitar: there’s still electric guitar, drums and more to embellish the tracks were necessary.  The strings added to this second version of ‘Requiem’ are exceptionally orchestrated and serve the mood of the piece brilliantly.  That said, ‘7.00 AM’ is a remarkably restrained and beautiful song, recalling Sabbath and also Trouble worshippers Soundgarden. 

Those songs – and the other tracks comprising the “Unplugged” part of this release – offer a relaxed side of the band that explores more of their psychedelic, sixties interests (see their cover of The Yardbirds’ ‘Heartful of Soul’).  It’s a release that even my eleven-year-old daughter appreciated.  The only mis-step is the jaunty jig of ‘Smile’, which is just too jangly and nice.  Yet have no fear, the version of ‘Misery’ showcased here (released as ‘The Misery Shows’ on the eponymous Def American release) reminds us just how great this band were.   

My only major issue is the cover art.  That may seem petty when this is a review of the band’s music, but as a long-term Trouble fan, I’m considering buying the vinyl copy for my collection.  And that vile cover may well deter me from doing so.  Trouble has a great logo, but the cover squanders this with nothing other than the title, in what looks like – GASP! – Comic Sans MS!  A font that should only be used by primary school teaching assistants, it dates and also ridicules the stature of the music.  It’s a truly vile and lazy cover – seemingly thrown together by a Johnny-No-Stars work experience boy on his lunchbreak.  Awful.  Couldn’t someone have redesigned it?

I’m docking points for that, ‘cos the cover mocks all I hold holy.  Beyond that, fantastic music and a must for any Trouble fan.

RIP Eric Wagner

For more info, check out the Trouble website, their Facebook page or Bandcamp page.

Hammerheart Records also have a website, Facebook and Bandcamp.

This review has been brought to you by Platinum Al in partnership with Ever Metal.

Pentre Fest 2017

Pentre Fest

Friday 23rd – Sunday 25th June 2017

McLean’s Pub, Deeside

Three days of the heaviest of metal, featuring underground, unsigned bands from across the UK, walking distance from my house.  How could I resist?

I’ve been to McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside several times over the years – usually for functions such as birthdays.  I had no idea, though, that they were regularly hosting gigs of the rock/metal variety.  Pentre Fest came out of the blue, but I managed to make it down for Saturday evening.

Pentre is a small area within Deeside, North Wales – and McLeans a fairly well known pub/function place.  Take it from me, the fact that Pentre Fest existed was a surprise at first.

As I was late arriving, I missed the first few bands, including the excellent Bad Earth.  I’ve seen them a while ago supporting Karma to Burn and they were excellent.  A bad start for me, I fully intend to see Bad Earth again sometime.

The first band I witnessed were Pelugion – they were a great introduction to the festival.  A metal band with a healthy element of stoner/doom, Pelugion rocked out in a Judas Priest or Megadeth vein.  They also excelled when they got into a slower, Sabbath like groove – bringing to mind Alice in Chains or Soundgarden.  Really impressive.

Outside the actual venue was a marque hosting acoustics acts.  This was proved handy between bands, especially on a sunny day like this when you could sip a beer outside with some live entertainment.

I saw Pelugion again performing a great acoustic set, which culminated in a heartbreakingly good version of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”.  Serious hairs standing up on back of the neck time.  Wonderful stuff – the Pelugion singer has pipes indeed.

The names of other acts in the acoustic tent escaped me (sorry everyone), but I did see a fantastic one-man rendition of Tenacious D’s “Tribute”, and a band doing some classic rock covers.  And I do love me some classic rock.

Back inside, next up were Impavidus from Manchester way.  Their set consisted of some incredibly locked in, expertly performed and aggressive metal.  With a sound not too far away from Carcass, the pleasant surprise with this band is the amazing singer, who happens to be female.  There just aren’t enough girls in rock/metal, but Michelle impressed with a vocal ranging from slinky Siouxsie Sioux to a commanding metal growl.  Excellent show from all of the band, across the board – and a decent bunch of folks, too.

Up next on the indoor main stage were thrash titans Incinery.  Their scorching hot set of purest thrash metal glistened with speed and precision.  Obvious comparisons would be Slayer at their fastest, with the riffs of Testament or even Sepultura.  Absolutely no fucking about delivery and really gripping viewing, Incinery bring back the best of old school thrash and drag it with them into the future.

Amusingly, in a very Phoenix Nights kind of way, whilst all this blistering metal was being unleashed on the main stage, there was 60th birthday party in the next room.  Absolutely bloody hilarious!  I wonder what Granny made of it…?

But back to the music, and next on the bill were Haerken (apologies for the spelling, I can’t find the right symbol on my keyboard).  A different tale altogether from what we’ve experienced so far, Haerken introduced some Medieval themed mayhem with a killer presentation.  Dressed like knights or druids etc, their Olde Worlde death fest was brilliantly presented and featured some intricate musicianship.  Sharp as a gleaming sword and just as lethal.

Finally, headlining Saturday night, were the exquisitely named Sodomized Cadaver, from good old South Wales.  With a band name and song titles in the classic controversy baiting death metal style, it was obvious what we would be getting.  The heaviest band of the day, with a brutal rip-your-face-off  musical attack, these boys mercilessly slaughtered the gathered metal hordes.  Vastly entertaining, their savage yet brilliantly played Metel Angau* was murderously superb.

And that was it.  At least for me, as I could only attend Saturday.  Next year, I’m attending all three days and YOU’RE COMING TOO.

Awesome live music from the metal underground, Pentre Fest also delivered a great atmosphere and camaraderie amongst some very cool people.  Let’s have another!

The Facebook page for Pentre Fest is here.  There are links to all the bands over the full weekend – do the research, it’s worth it.

The McLeans Pub Live FB page is here.

* I am reliably informed that this is Welsh for Death Metal.