The Distortion Field
By Justin Press
Anytime a band comes out of the chute with tuned-down guitars, doom laden lyrics, and sludge driven rhythms the evitable is going to happen, the "Sabbath" thing. Chicago's Trouble is no stranger to the comparison and the inspiration and justifiably so, early releases rang true to the blueprint set by England's finest. Yet, Trouble was able to give themselves some breathing room by ramping up the pacing and give it a bit more of an American energy, the plodding pacing was still there, it just seemed to have a quicker cadence.
But like The Sabs, changes in the Trouble line-up gave the band a new opportunity to reign wide open. And like Dio entering the Sabbath fray, new Trouble vocalist Kyle Thomas (of Exhorder fame) allows the band to expand its palate without forgetting it's identity. Is it better, no it's just different, the quality is still substantial while reawakening a lumbering giant. The Distortion Field cuts a wide swath with it's open-ended riffing, anchor solid rhythms and melodic crunch however the sound is more akin to classic 80's hard rock and not just buried in the dark forests of Sabbath or Cathedral. Longtime guitarist Rick Wartell is really showcased here as his solos are glacial at times, simplistic and melodic at others and on a track like "The Broken Has Spoken" have a real voice about them, no talk box needed.
The opener "When The Sky Comes Down" is a slow crawl for about: 30 seconds before lunging into a series of quick-paced Thin Lizzy quality guitar leads. Thomas supplies enough melody to his otherwise world-weary gruff vocals that give tracks like "Glass Of Lies" and "Sucker" some real bare-knuckle bluster. In a bit of irony, as the band seems to pull away from the overtly darkness of their past material, they go right back into the cauldron with "Hunter Of Doom" complete with Thomas' "half-past midnight" bellow. One of the interesting tracks on the record is "Greying Chill Of Autumn" as it ventures into psychedelic guitar pedal work and a bit of dark mysticism lyrical bent. And while forging a new path they do harken back to their initial influencer as "Bleeding Alone" is a sinister instrumental that could be stamped as their "Planet Caravan", "a don't walk alone in the dark" styled number complete with a slowly dying heartbeat on the outset.
The closer, "Your Reflection" ends up being most reminiscent of the classic Trouble sound, invoking a bit of former vocalist Eric Wagner with just a hint of SST-era Chris Cornell. And maybe that's where Trouble has ventured comparatively, out of the world of 24/7 darkness and doom to the more diverse rain-filled landscapes of the upper Northwest, respectfully.
Trouble may have altered it's line-up but they've served their lineage well with The Distortion Field, a true to the stone hard rock album that weaves melodic rock with the no-holds barred mentality of true metal. At the end of the day it's worthy contender for Top 5 of the year.