Here’s another band I recently saw this year in Milwaukee. The Skull features three former members of Trouble, most notably frontman Eric Wagner. The last time I saw him on stage, prior to this summer, he had short hair, wore sunglasses and a Beatles shirt, and spent the whole set staring at the floor. But this new band (also featuring bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff Olson) seems to have re-energized Wagner; he was a lot more animated at Days of the Doomed.
And he’s even back to writing religious-themed lyrics, if tracks like “Send Judas Down” and “Sometime Yesterday Mourning” are any indication. Hell, they even cover “The Last Judgement,” an old Trouble tune from their ’83 Live cassette, on here. Uh, so much for moving forward?
Anyhoo, the album opens with “Trapped Inside My Mind,” which despite its Manic Frustration-style title, is undoubtably doomy off the bat, before picking up into a mid-paced romp, Wagner’s nasal vocals easily recognizable above the mix… although he doesn’t quite hit the high notes that he used to. “The Touch of Reality” has an opening riff that screams vintage Trouble, even if neither of these guitarists were ever in the band—as evidenced by the pinch harmonics in the verse. (Zakk Wylde is not doom, kids!) The stop-start passage that precedes the guitar solo is also a little iffy…
But I’ll be damned if said axemen don’t give it the ol’ Troubled try. Power-ballad(!) “Sick of it All” delivers some old-school suffering on its chorus, while “A New Generation” injects a bluesy twist into a pretty decent doom-metal riff. Still, some of this stuff doesn’t really hit the mark. “The Door” is a pretty boring ballad, while “Send Judas Down,” despite its sweet song-title, is fairly dull and plodding. And their Trouble cover would hardly have Wartell and Franklin cowering in fear, either. I hafta say, I’m a bit underwhelmed here.