Album review: TROUBLE – The Distortion Field


Being a top quality singer involves much more than having a good voice, it requires charisma – although what that actually is can be difficult to define sometimes. In Eric Wagner, Chicago based Doom Metal legends Trouble had one of the few frontmen who definitely has it, so his decision, back in 2008, to leave the band that he himself formed back in 1979…well it simply smelled trouble for the remaining members.

After a few ‘false starts’ and related line-up changes, the quartet decided to offer the position to ex-colleague Kyle Thomas with whom they recorded their eighth (if you exclude 2008s “Unplugged”) studio album entitled “The Distortion Field”.

I had access to the album a good two weeks before I finally started listening it and, if I were to be totally honest with you, it was more curiosity than hope that convinced me to give this album a spin. Why? Having been a massive fan of “Psalm 9”, “The Skull” and “Manic Frustration” the process of listening to material that was not worthy of the band’s name and status was, simply put, not at all appealing to me.

However, it only took a couple of listens for me to realise, much to my great surprise, what a great album “The Distortion Field” really is – and my joy knew no bounds!

Over the years, fans like me have discovered two different but equally impressive sides to this band’s character and personality – in “The Distortion Field”, the Chicago noisemakers indulge in both in equal terms. Fans of the first two albums will find many Sabbath-infused influences in songs like the opener “When The Sky Comes Down” and “One Life”, while those of you who believe that “Manic Frustration” was the band’s magnum opus would find solace in the dead catchy “Paranoia Conspiracy”, “Sink Or Swim” and Glass Of Lies”.

The riffs produced by the top duet Franklin/Wartell are simple but blistering in their effect and as far as Kyle Thomas is concerned…well, Eric Wagner he may not be but he has the vocal strength and power needed to provide these thirteen beautiful compositions with the flair and passion that they truly deserve. His dramatic intonations in this newly born classic are second to none, as is his soulful performance in the acoustic guitar-led “Have I Told You”.

Another composition in which not only the recently reinstated singer (who also led Trouble during the period 1997–2000), but also the remaining members of the band, truly excel is “Greying Chill Of Autumn” – a dark and sinister composition, filled with haunting riffs and unearthly melodies, convincing us that, far from being irrelevant, Trouble have managed to once again place themselves as leaders of a genre that they themselves helped create thirty three years ago!

There are many reasons why I am delighted that Trouble have managed to come up with an album of the quality of “The Distortion Field”. Not only has it given a new lease of life to these Doom legends, proving beyond any doubt that there is indeed life after Wagner, but it is also the kind of album which is capable of shaking the whole scene to the core.

Why is that so important? Because it could potentially serve as the ultimate motivation for similar-sounding bands and that can only be to the benefit of the whole scene. I cannot see any Doom/Stoner Metal band producing a better album this year.

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)

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