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.

Duel – Album Review

Duel – In Carne Persona

Heavy Psych Sounds (Purple Sage PR)

Release date: 01/10/2021

Running Time: 39 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

Wait, it can’t be time for a new Duel album, surely?  It only seems like yesterday that I reviewed their last work for Ever Metal.  Time flies when you’re having fun, eh?  Well, that last album “Valley of Shadows”, also from Heavy Psych Sounds, was released back in 2019 – so yes, it’s time for more Duel.  My cryo-freeze unit must have kept me out of trouble for longer than I thought.

Austin, Texas is where they came from, though Duel’s real home is good ol’ heavy metal and greasy hard rock.  Whereas with the previous record review, I made comparisons to stoner rock and 70’s proto metal, this time around, “In Carne Persona” has a much more trad metal approach.  Thundering out of the gates on the very first track, “Children of the Fire” has a galloping, early Maiden sound. 

The NWOBHM influence rages throughout the album, with some classic Sabbath heaviness and Thin Lizzy style melody for good measure.  Second track “The Veil” illustrates both sides of those 70s references with a pounding riff and laser sharp solo.

Tracks like “Anchor” and “Bite Back” take the intensity of Trouble or Saint Vitus and ramp up the pace with a ferocious Priest-like power.  “Lizard Tongue” delivers the boogie, whilst final track “Blood on the Claw” provides an epic finish to the proceedings.  Bringing the album to a huge and satisfying conclusion; it builds slowly, contrasting heavy chugging sections with refrained passages.

Superb bombastic vocals crown masterful musicianship that evokes the past masters, making “In Carne Persona” another triumphant album from Duel.  Throughout it all, Duel create a dark and brooding atmosphere, that effectively stamps their own authenticity on the old template.  Dark but never grim, it’s always exciting.

I remember a duel of sorts in my days with Purple.  One night whilst on tour somewhere, we decided to have a game of beer Russian roulette.  Thirty cans of lager on the table, one had been shaken up by yours truly and placed randomly back amongst the others.  Participants would then open one can at a time next to their ear; one unlucky player would obviously suffer the frothy consequences.

Gillan, Lord and Blackmore all started well – springing open cans next to their heads which didn’t explode, so they could drink them down.  Eventually, and inevitably, it was Ritchie who took the shaken beer to the head, he was soaked and screamed petulantly at Gillan, blaming the singer for his misfortune.  It wasn’t like he didn’t know what to expect!  Blackmore stormed off leaving the rest of us in hysterics.  What was really funny was, when Ritchie wasn’t looking, I’d switched cans on him with another frothed up bullet.  Ha!

Check out Duel on Facebook, Bandcamp and Spotify.

Heavy Psych Sounds are cool and you should check them out here. Plus, they have Facebook, Bandcamp and YouTube.

This hard rockin’ review was brought to you by Platinum Al and Ever Metal.

Duel – Valley of Shadows Album Review

Duel – Valley of Shadows

Heavy Psych Sounds (Purple Sage PR)

Release date: 17/05/2019

Running Time: 38 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8/10

 

Duel have been on my radar for quite a while.  Despite hearing a few tracks via the band’s social media, I’d never sat down, ear goggles locked in place, to listen to a full album.   So, I was pretty stoked to have the opportunity to review their latest album: “Valley of Shadows”, released recently by Heavy Psych Sounds.

Hailing from Austin, Texas, these four fiends are responsible for an almighty stoner doom racket; full on heavy rifferama with psychedelic and classic metal references.  In case that description alone doesn’t grab you like a graveyard ghoul on the way to an unholy shindig, their whole aesthetic is tripped out in the sort of late-night, B-movie gore that’s lurid enough to make your eyes pop.

It’s like Dracula Has Risen from the Grave soundtracked by a bunch of longhair ne’er-do-wells, and that’s just how I like it.

“Black Magic Summer” opens up the proceedings with some appropriate rain-soaked sound effects, before launching into the heavy-as-a-crypt-door attack.  There’s a brilliantly melodic middle section too, adding some light to the gloom.

Second track “Red Moon Forming” has a direct, driving pace that’s infectious and purposely concocted to inspire the raising of horns.  “Drifting Alone” has a real classic desert rock vibe, with a cool head shaker riff.

“Strike and Disappear” comes on like the vampire Western that Tarantino needs to make.  A slower, bluesy pace with a dusty feel, it’s the first taste we get of a very different – and effective – approach. It melts into a ferocious, face pummelling section that screams blood and violence.

Songs like “Tyrant on the Throne” have a classic metal, almost (gasp!) Iron Maiden feel to them.  Otherwise, the sound explores more of the head-banging, smoke induced groove of bands like Trouble and The Obsessed.

But just like the best stoner metal movers and shakers, there’s always room for some ZZ Top-style boogie, which particularly comes to the fore in the final track, “The Bleeding Heart”.

As always, my sound comparisons are only meant as genuine compliments.  Duel manage to create an album full of their own spirit and character, and it’s one hell of a fun ride.  At turns hypnotic, fist pummelling, and sombre; “Valley of the Shadows” pulls the stake out of the stoner doom corpse and brings it back to bloody life again.

The last time I actually was involved in a duel, it was a case of duelling banjos.  I was on a canoeing trip with some buddies out in the Appalachian back country.  We ran into some unsavoury redkneck types, one of whom challenged me to a banjo showdown.  Of course, I threw in some licks that my old mentor Jimi Hendrix had shown me, and the creepy little weirdo had no chance: I was victorious.

Unfortunately, the locals weren’t too happy and we had a bit of a run-in of sorts with ‘em later.  It was all fun and games really, and we were on our way home soon enough.  But I tell you: just whatever you do, don’t mention piggies to my buddy Bobby.

This review originally appeared on the Ever Metal website, please pay them a visit!

Duel are on Facebook here.

The Duel Bandcamp page is here.

Visit the Heavy Psych Sounds website here.

Heavy Psych Sounds are on Facebook here.

Heavy Psych Sounds are on Bandcamp here.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #6

Welcome to another Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub with your host, Platinum Al!

As previous, I spent the evening listening to a stack of 45 rpm singles that I’d acquired over time from several sources.  Whilst imbibing some fine alcohol.  The following is a list of those singles, A and B sides listened to in order.

There are some particularly sweet slabs of vinyl in this edition.  As always, however, we’re never too far away from some rank cheese…

  1. INXS – “The Gift” / “The Gift (Extended Mix)”
  2. Sweet – “Action” / “Sweet F.A.”
  3. Rod Stewart – “Reason to Believe” / “Maggie May”
  4. The KLF – “America: What Time is Love?” / “America No More”
  5. ABBA – “Mamma Mia” / “Tropical Loveland”
  6. Elvis Presley – “Trouble” / “Young Dreams” / “Crawfish” / “Dixieland Rock”
  7. Cream – “Strange Brew” / “Tales of Brave Ulysses”
  8. Right Said Fred – “I’m Too Sexy” / “I’m Too Sexy (Instrumental)”
  9. Anthrax – “Indians” / “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” / “Taint”
  10. The Stranglers – “All Day and All of the Night” / “Viva Vlad!”
  11. W.A.S.P. – “I Don’t Need No Doctor” / “Widowmaker”
  12. Beastie Boys – “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” / “Time to Get Ill”
  13. Iron Maiden – “The Clairvoyant” / “The Prisoner”
  14. AC/DC – “Let’s Get It Up” / “Back in Black”
  15. Yes – “Into the Lens” / “Does It Really Happen?”
  16. Marillion – “Incommunicado” / “Going Under”
  17. Kim Wilde – “Cambodia” / Watching for Shapes”
  18. The Beatles – “Day Tripper” / “We Can Work It Out”
  19. The Spencer Davis Group – “Keep On Running” / “Somebody Help Me” / “Every Little Bit Hurts” / “I’m a Man” / “Gimme Some Lovin'”
  20. Booker T and the M.G.s – “Time is Tight” / “Hang ‘Em High”
  21. The Byrds – “Mr Tambourine Man” / “I Knew I’d Want You”
  22. The Skids – “Circus Games” / “Onedecree”
  23. Manuel & The Music of the Mountains – “The Portugese Washer Women” / “Never on Sunday”

Note: the B-side of the Anthrax single is actually their track “Imitation of Life”. 

I’m mighty proud of that selection.  Not that I had anything to do with it, the choice was random – I just took whatever disc was top of the pile and made my way through.

But what a bunch of scorchers!  One of my favourite Beatles tracks; Cream; Booker T; some classic metal and the Beastie Boys.  It doesn’t get better than that.

Or rather, it won’t.  Most of the rest of the pile of 7″ singles isn’t up to that quality…