No band deserves as much credit for keeping the gospel of classic Black Sabbath-derived heavy metal (no to mention bell-bottoms) alive during the '80s as Chicago's Trouble. And while the group's legend never exceeded cult status, their work would serve as inspiration for an entire generation of '90s bands in the thriving underground doom/stoner metal scene.
Trouble was formed in 1979 by vocalist Eric Wagner, guitarists Bruce Franklin and Frank Wartell, bassist Sean McAllister, and drummer Jeff Olson. Drawing deeply from Black Sabbath for inspiration (with occasional nods to the psychedelic sounds of the late '60s thrown in for good measure), the band forged an uncompromising brand of classic metal all their own, made more unique by their gloomy down-tuned riffs and spiritual, often openly religious lyrics, which quickly earned them the dubious "white metal" tag. The band toured throughout the Midwest during the early '80s before signing with Metal Blade Records and releasing their amazingly mature eponymous debut (later referred to as Psalm 9) in 1984.
The equally impressive (and even more depressing) The Skull followed in 1985 and reflected singer Wagner's struggles with substance abuse as well as the growing turmoil within the group. This led to the replacement of bassist McAllister with Ron Holzner and the departure of drummer Olson, who, as legend has it, had decided to become a preacher. Dennis Lesch was drafted as his replacement for 1987's Run to the Light, a disappointing, unfocused album that, when faced with continued public indifference, plunged the disheartened group to the brink of extinction and a three-year silence.
Luckily, just when it seemed that Trouble's fortunes had run out, the band was snapped up by Rick Rubin's visionary Def American Records for whom they recorded another self-titled album in 1990 with Rubin in the producer's chair. More experimental than previous efforts, the album (featuring new drummer Barry Stern) expanded upon the group's tentative psychedelic notions of the past while abandoning none of their thunderous power chords. Encouraged by a euphoric response from the media, the revitalized group embarked on a year-long tour, expanded their fan base considerably, and returned to the studio with every intention of making their next album the one that would push them over the edge.
Sure enough, 1992's stunning Manic Frustration realized all their creative ambitions, delving even deeper into Beatlesque psychedelia and featuring some of Trouble's most aggressive, energetic performances ever. But when the album still failed to connect with a wider audience (due perhaps to the grunge revolution that made metal a bad word in 1992), it seemed that Trouble had apparently missed their last window of opportunity.
Ultimately dropped by their record company (that by now was experiencing financial problems of their own), the band issued 1995's Plastic Green Head through the Music for Nations label. But despite offering consistently strong songwriting that harkened back to their doom roots, and the return of founding drummer Olson, the album's impact was noticeably dulled by a badly concealed weariness. Vocalist Eric Wagner would quit the band soon after (going on to form Lid) and though Trouble has been on hiatus ever since, rumors of an eventual re-formation persist. — Ed Rivadavia
1984 Psalm 9
1985 The Skull
1987 Run to the Light
1991 Manic Frustration
1996 Plastic Green Head