STREET DATE IS 2/4/22
Trouble's second album, The Skull, is not a sophomore slump, it is the shedding of dead skin. In fact, the sophomore slump is a disease that rarely seems to strike in the Metal realm and was near non-existent for any half decent early '80s Metal band. As bands were being picked up relatively quickly by labels during that time, the overall trend was for bands to evolve to a heightened plane as they honed their skills over two or three releases. This is exactly the case here, where Trouble emerged from a NWOBHM/Thrash Doom cocoon and blossomed into a soul destroying depressive machine.
This album is a cornerstone of Doom Metal. Trouble had written songs like "Gideon", "Wickedness Of Man" and "The Wish" before debut album Psalm 9 had even been released. Not only that, but the incredible guitar tone and Eric Wagner's vocals have improved since the legendary debut even if that seems impossible to do.
The lyrics are about Christian morality spiced with dark themes. And they come across as an ingenious Doom Metal ploy - instead of preachy songs, they appear more like depressing stories of death and hopeless salvation. If you are not struck down by the impact of Eric's grief when singing the opening of "Pray For The Dead", you will never know true Doom. "Pray For The Dead", "Fear No Evil" and especially "The Wish" are an incredible opening force. This is Doom Metal, in all its glory. The touches of NWOBHM and thrash are still there, but the tempo drops most of the time and the guitar tone is something that other bands of the period would never come close to achieving.
There are neoclassical touches and harmonized leads which really bring about the desponding atmosphere, and Eric's vocals are hands down some of the best in Metal. "The Truth Is, What Is" has a fantastic chorus despite being a mash of riffs and continues the high trend. Surprisingly it's the next two pre-Psalm 9 tracks which seem a bit different, but the riffs on display still slaughter most Doom and NWOBHM from around this period.
Finally, just when you think they couldn't really top the power of the opening tracks, comes the incredibly ominous "The Skull". Once again the riffs here are inventive, memorable and shining with brilliance; the mind boggles that this release hasn't been praised more.