By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — An all-star group featuring two important members of pioneering Chicago doom band Trouble comes to the Elbo Room Tuesday when the Skull headlines a potent three-band bill in San Francisco.
Long hailed as one of the earliest champions of doom metal along with contemporaries like Saint Vitus, Chicago’s beloved quintet Trouble released several seminal albums during the ’80s and ’90s. Hearkening back to the classic sounds of early Black Sabbath and Judas Priest mixed with touches of ’60s psychedelia, the band featured the dueling guitars of Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin and the powerful vocals of frontman Eric Wagner. After building a regional following in the Midwest during the early ’80s, the group scored a deal with important independent label Metal Blade, which released their landmark debut in 1984.
Showing off a gift for creative riff writing and a decidedly Christian lyrical perspective (running against the stream of frequently satanic lyrics often heard in metal at the time), Trouble’s eponymous first record would later be hailed as an cornerstone in the early rise of American doom. The band’s follow-up effort The Skull was met with equal enthusiasm the following year. Trouble would go on hiatus for several years after the release of Run to the Light in 1987, but bounced back with a new deal on Rick Rubin’s Def American label for their second eponymous album in 1990.
Produced by Rubin, the recording was hailed by many critics as their best yet, while their second Def American salvo Manic Frustration in 1992 featured Trouble’s first minor MTV video hit — the Beatles-esque “Memory’s Garden” –and led to a tour with rising metal juggernaut Pantera. The band would take another extended break after departing from Def American and recording 1995’s Plastic Green Head for Music For Nations with Wagner eventually being replaced by singer Kyle Thomas.
While the group would reunite with Wagner again in the 2000s and recorded one more album — Simple Mind Condition in 2007 — Trouble continued with different singers, working with Warrior Soul vocalist Kory Clarke and Thomas (since 2012). Wagner would team with fellow former Trouble members including bassist Ron Hozner and original drummer Jeff Olson to play the band’s classic material and write new songs in the group the Skull.
The Skull put out its first album For Those Which Are Asleep in 2014, delivering a dose of tunes that captured the spirit of Trouble. The group has been quiet since it released a 7-inch single two years ago, but it was recently announced that the current version of the band featuring Wagner and Hozner alongside veteran Cathedral drummer Brian Dixon (though Saint Vitus drummer Henry Vasquez will be filing in on this tour), longtime guitarist Lothar Keller and guitarist Rob Wrong (also a member of celebrated Northwestern doom outfit Witch Mountain) would take to the road to preview songs from its forthcoming second album The Endless Road Turns Dark set for release this fall through Tee Pee Records. For this show at the Elbo Room in San Francisco, the Skull is joined by Maryland doom crew Earthride (the longtime project of former Spirit Caravan singer Dave Sherman) and Kansas City band Hyborian.
Tuesday, June 12, 9 p.m. $20-$25
The Elbo Room