Trouble - Psalm 9 (Reissue) Review
by Mark Hensch
It is difficult to comprehend just how revolutionary a band like Trouble really is. When it first dropped into music shops during 1984, the band's Psalm 9 was very unorthodox. Though always lumped into the doom category, Trouble proved on Psalm 9 that there was more to their sound than Black Sabbath adoration. Rather, the highly symbolic nine tracks on Psalm 9 featured plenty of low-groove just like Sabbath, but Trouble added a sense of plodding, psychedelic wonder to the proceedings, coupled with a tendency to break out into shockingly fast portions of righteous riffage. This trance-inducing "proto-thrash" sound endeared them to many, and in some ways altered the way doom was composed and played in the underground for decades to come.
All of the above would have been enough reason to reissue Psalm 9 twenty-two years later. However, there is another piece to the Trouble puzzle. The fact remains that when Psalm 9 first came out in 1984, it was one of the only openly Christian (yet decidedly heavy) metal albums of that time. Even as early as Trouble's formation in 1979, most people had already pegged heavy metal as the music of Satan himself. Centered on the very Psalm after which it was named, Psalm 9 drew a line in the sand and for the first time made Christianity seem well, badass. I'm not a religious guy by any means, but I kid you not when I'd say you'd be a moron for ignoring Psalm 9 solely on the basis of its Christian themes. In fact, I think part of the reason this album has always been such a cult-classic simply as one could expect it to be watered down or preachy, when in reality it slays. Trouble seem to taunt listeners on this one with their abundant talent, wearing their faith with pride and sounding every bit as vital as more secular bands.
"The Temper" shows this righteous majesty in full effect right away. Trouble were (and still are) a band who realized doom as a genre is totally immersed in the concept of misfortune as well as the actual doom of the music's atmosphere. "The Tempter" wafts in like a hint of brimstone and sulphur from Hell, then proceeds to alternate between spacey periods of unholy offerings courtesy of Satan himself and periods of thrashing fury in response. It is not unlike Jesus rebuking his apostles, crying out "GET BEHIND ME SATAN" with true anger.
"Assassin" is considered by many to be a doom metal classic, and with great reason. The song sounds for all the world like a muddier, slower, NWOBHM anthem, and trust me when I say it slays. Dealing with issues of murder and divine retribution, the song harries your ears again and again with divebombing riffage. Especially important is how relevant the song is today; in a world where people pervert religion to serve murderous ends on an almost daily basis, the song's message still resounds with a frighteningly modern clarity.
"Victim of the Insane" has some of the album's most fist-pumping, Earth-shaking grooves. Reeking of classic Black Sabbath but having a more ethereal psychedelia, "Insane" swells with an organ-like choral backdrop and exudes a sense of authentic holy fury. This sense of Godly justice is very "eye-for-an-eye" and redefines just what makes Trouble such a respected doom act in the first place.
"Revelation (Life or Death)" drops out of heaven like a pillar of fire, attacking with dirty and raw intensity. The song later unleashes a swarm of locus harmonics that bite and sting with pitch-y irritation. After this, the song ends on a kinder note, a melodic drift into oblivion finishing the track. Lyrically, it deals with the tyranny that Satan has over our world and how God overcomes it with his grace. It ends up being a ballsy, rocking sing-along stomped down the Devil's throat, and pretty wicked metal too.
The highlight of the album is next as "Bastards Will Pay" explodes from the middle portion of the disc. If a cautious metalhead wants to know how a Christian act can headbang with the rest of them, check out this monster. It attacks right off the band with a killtastic riff and goes right for the jugular. In many ways, it is kind of scary hearing how much of the song's composition owes to the thrash metal movement that would spawn later in the decade; things here are definitely ahead of their time. Or so you'd be wise to think, until the band rips things like a hooked fish on a motorline right back into a passage of prehistoric doom laden with Biblical wrath.
The chugging "Fall of Lucifer" is streamlined, steely doom of the highest quarter. A blistering solo nestled in the body of the song really brings out the fullness of the crushing metal, not unlike a fine wine that goes particularly well with a rare delicacy. Even more intriguing is the overall positive feel one cannot help but notice while listening to it. The jaunty finish line sprint of up-tempo doom towards song end may be amongst doom's most legendary riffs, and as an avid doom fan, I can say it has influenced later bands as diverse as Reverend Bizarre, Sleep, and Ogre.
Next up we have a winding instrumental in "Endtime." Dark spacial realms are conjured for the band to hide in and again and again they jump out to surprise you. Be it behemoth guitars, twisting lightning strikes of percussion, or some mighty bass work, every member gets their own time to shine in "Endtime." Ironically enough, despite its instrumental nature this song comes across as one of Psalm 9's most passionate pieces of music. It as if the world is really ending, and Trouble got to play the last song we mortals get to hear as the whole rotten ship goes down. Did I mention they do a damned fine job?
The title track of "Psalm 9" starts with a TRUE DOOM reading of that very Biblical verse, and tons of sinister background effects. When the song finally goes into Saurian trudge, replete with blazing guitar licks, one can't help but raise the horns....or better yet, flash the cross. By now, the band has perfected what at the time was a totally new take on the doom genre---slowing down its descendants in NWOBHM and Thrash back to the original tempo of putrid doom that Black Sabbath invented. It all sounds so fluid and natural that you won't believe it was penned back in 1984, and that must be a definite sign of the album's overal lasting power.
Closing the disc is a cover of Cream's "Tales of Brave Ulysses." I have never enjoyed Eric Clapton much, but Cream is passable in my book and this version of the song is obviously a bit heavier than Clapton's own. It still manages a lighter, more free-form tone than what the rest of the album has, and is perhaps freed from the overal claustrophobia of doom. This happier tone and the fact it isn't really related to the rest of the album make it stick out a bit, and in my opinion, something else should have closed the opus. Despite these minor faults, the song is still slick and it is definitely a fun cover if nothing else. Solid stuff.
All-in-all, Psalm 9 is a groundbreaking album on all fronts, be they spiritual, cultural, or musical. Converting an honest, passionate, and fearful reverence of God to doom was an excellent idea, and one that has inspired all sort of similar bands to this day, most notably Place of Skulls. Meanwhile, the band's ambitious take on the tempo of doom allowed for the genre to stretch itself a bit and realize it isn't always about being slow, but being all manner of speeds leading into VERY slow. Combining all these with fire and brimstone lyrics coupled with righteous fury, Psalm 9 ends up being a heavenly album and every bit as vital now as it was on first release. Hear the good word, and check this out.
1. The Tempter
3. Victim of the Insane
4. Revelation (Life or Death)
5. Bastards Will Pay
6. The Fall of Lucifer
7. Endtime (instrumental)
8. Psalm 9
9. Tales of Brave Ulysses (Cream Cover)
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Trouble - Psalm 9 (Reissue)
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