The Skull – For Those Which Are Asleep (Tee Pee)Thursday, 16th October 2014
Two camps in the Trouble split: Those who have stuck by the band with new singer Kyle Thomas (ex-Exhorder), and of course, the Eric Wagner camp, who probably have already frolicked over to the aptly-named The Skull. Being that the last decade or so has been a mess for Trouble, having two bands to choose isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. On some level, it reinforces the legacy of the band, of which doom touchstones like Psalm 9 and obviously, The Skull were forged. But it also causes a scramble that may leave a pretty good album like For Those Which Are Asleep behind.
Wagner’s voice is unmistakable. His carefully-concocted croon may not have the eruptions it had back in Trouble’s heyday, but if you’re looking for a controlled, heart-stricken American songs-ster, then Wagner is still the guy. He’s at his best during the blues-soaked lurch of “The Door,” one of those reflective, weed-infused jams that are too short in supply, unfortunately. The punchy, Sabbath-guided “The Touch of Reality” has some girth; the vintage roll of “Till the Sun Turns Black” (complete with an opening, unexpected shout) is thick and meaty, while the sinister crunch of “Sometime Yesterday Mourning” emerges as the album’s heaviest – and most dynamic cut.
Inevitably, For Those Which Are Asleep is going to be compared to Trouble’s 2013 opus, The Distortion Field, which even with the addition of Thomas, had its moments. Nevertheless, The Skull’s debut effort is virtually everything a Trouble fan could ask for, minus the timeless chemistry of the Bruce Franklin/Rick Wartell guitar team. Then again, such items are arbitrary now in the face of what has become of one of America’s most legendary doom bands. A shame that a bunch of older, seasoned veterans like Wagner, Franklin, Wartell, and drummer Rick Olson can’t get it together. Two bands is often not better than one, but the current setup works. For now.