Trouble (band)

Last updated
Trouble - Jalometalli 2008 - 02.jpg
Trouble at Jalometalli 2008
Background information
Origin Aurora, Illinois, United States
Years active1979present
Associated acts
MembersKyle Thomas
Bruce Franklin
Rick Wartell
Mark Lira
Rob Hultz
Past members Eric Wagner
Kory Clarke
Sean McAllister
Dennis Lesh
Ron Holzner
Jeff Olson
Barry Stern
Ted Kirkpatrick
Ian Brown
Chuck Robinson
Shane Pasqualla

Trouble is an American doom metal band from Aurora, Illinois, formed in 1979 and considered one of the pioneers of the genre alongside Candlemass and Saint Vitus. [2] The band created a distinct style taking influences of the British heavy metal bands Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, [3] and psychedelic rock of the 1970s. A critically acclaimed group, their first two albums, Psalm 9 and The Skull , are cited as landmarks of doom metal. To date, Trouble has released eight studio albums. Although the band never officially broke up, Trouble was plagued by extended inactivity after their original singer Eric Wagner left in 1997. He eventually rejoined in 2000 before leaving again eight years later.

Doom metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that typically uses slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much "thicker" or "heavier" sound than other heavy metal genres. Both the music and the lyrics intend to evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom. The genre is strongly influenced by the early work of Black Sabbath, who formed a prototype for doom metal with songs such as "Black Sabbath", "Children of the Grave", "Electric Funeral" and "Into the Void". During the first half of the 1980s, a number of bands from England, the United States and Sweden defined doom metal as a distinct genre.

Aurora, Illinois City in Illinois, United States

Aurora, a suburb of Chicago, is a city in DuPage, Kane, Kendall, and Will counties in the U.S. state of Illinois. Located primarily in DuPage and Kane counties, it is an outer suburb of Chicago and the second most populous city in the state, and the 115th most populous city in the country. The population was 197,899 at the 2010 census, and was estimated to have increased to 200,965 by 2017.

Candlemass (band) Swedish doom metal band

Candlemass is a Swedish doom metal band established in Stockholm in 1984 by bassist, songwriter and bandleader Leif Edling and drummer Matz Ekström. The band had a defining influence on doom metal, and the genre itself is named after their debut album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. After releasing five full-length albums and touring extensively throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Candlemass disbanded in 1994, but reunited three years later. After breaking up again in 2002, Candlemass reformed in 2004 and have continued to record and perform since then.


The nucleus of the band had been vocalist Eric Wagner, guitarists Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin, and drummer Jeff Olson. The band is also noted for the spiritual nature of their early lyrics; their first record label, Metal Blade Records, marketed the band as "white metal" (in contrast to the rising black metal movement) in the 1980s. [4]

Eric Wagner American singer

Eric Wagner is an American heavy metal singer who is best known for his work with doom metal band Trouble, which he formed in 1979 when he was 20 years old. He briefly left Trouble in the mid-nineties and formed Lid with guitarist Danny Cavanagh, resulting in 1997's In The Mushroom. Wagner rejoined Trouble in 2002 to record Simple Mind Condition. He also appeared on Dave Grohl's heavy metal side project Probot in 2004 with the song My Tortured Soul.

Bruce Franklin (guitarist) American musician

Bruce Franklin is a founding member and guitarist for the American Doom Metal band Trouble. In 1979 Bruce Franklin formed the band with his hometown friends Eric Wagner, Rick Wartell, Jeff Olson and Ian Brown. After touring the Midwest and gaining popularity, Trouble was signed to Metal Blade Records in 1983. Franklin's main guitar is a 1964 Cherry Gibson SG.

Metal Blade Records record label

Metal Blade Records is a heavy metal independent record label founded by Brian Slagel in 1982. The U.S. office for Metal Blade is located in Agoura Hills, California. It also has offices in Germany, Japan, Canada, and the UK. The label is distributed in the U.S. by RED Distribution, and in Canada by Sony Music Entertainment. It was distributed by Warner Bros. Records in the United States from 1988 to 1993.


Formation and Metal Blade years (1979-1988)

Trouble was formed in 1979 by Rick Wartell and was joined by guitarist Bruce Franklin, vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Tim Ian Brown (not to be confused with lead singer of English band The Stone Roses), and drummer Jeff Olson. Ian Brown was replaced by Sean McAllister in 1983. Drawing from Black Sabbath for inspiration (with occasional nods to the psychedelic sounds of the late 1960s), the band used gloomy down-tuned riffs and spiritual, often openly Bible-inspired lyrics, which led Metal Blade to market the band as "white metal" as opposed to black metal. [5] "I was brought up Catholic", vocalist and primary lyric writer Wagner explains in the liner notes of Psalm 9 re-issue (2006), "but you have to remember, back in the early 1980s, all the metal was kind of satanic, and I did not get into that vibe." Wagner has implied that Metal Blade actually came up with the term in the first place, which the band rejected: "I think it was more like Metal Blade trying to be cute or something, with everything [satanic metal] being called black metal, why not call us white metal, which is a bunch of crap." [6]

Ian Brown English musician and singer of The Stone Roses

Ian George Brown is an English singer and multi-instrumentalist. He was the lead singer of the alternative rock band the Stone Roses from their formation in 1984. Following the split in 1996, he began a solo career, releasing seven studio albums, a greatest hits compilation, a remix album, an 11 disc box set titled Collection and 19 singles. He has performed solo shows in 45 countries. He returned to singing for the Stone Roses in 2011, although this did not spell the end of his solo endeavours, on October 25th 2018 releasing First World Problems through Virgin/EMI records. He had a cameo appearance in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The Stone Roses English rock band

The Stone Roses are an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1983. One of the pioneering groups of the Madchester movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the band's lineup consists of vocalist Ian Brown, guitarist John Squire, bassist Mani and drummer Reni.

Rick Wartell live at Jalometalli 2008 Trouble - Jalometalli 2008 - 07.jpg
Rick Wartell live at Jalometalli 2008
Bruce Franklin at Jalometalli 2008 Trouble - Jalometalli 2008 - 10.jpg
Bruce Franklin at Jalometalli 2008

The band toured throughout the Midwest during the early 1980s. On February 5, 1983, the band recorded Trouble Live in Chicago. Drummer Jeff Olson mailed the cassette to Brian Slagel of Metal Blade Records and the band landed their first record deal. Trouble released their eponymous debut (later referred to as Psalm 9 ) with Metal Blade Records in 1984. The Skull followed in 1985 and reflected singer Wagner's struggles with substance abuse as well as growing turmoil within the group. This led to the replacement of bassist McAllister with Ron Holzner. Drummer Jeff Olson also departed. Reports suggested that Olson had left the band to become a preacher, [5] [7] but he had actually decided to pursue studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston. [8] Dennis Lesh was drafted as his replacement for 1987's Run to the Light . In comparison to earlier recordings, the critics thought Run to the Light was "disappointing". [5] Ted Kirkpatrick played drums during the Run to the Light tour before he went to form his own band, Tourniquet in 1989.

<i>Psalm 9</i> (album) 1984 studio album by Trouble

Psalm 9 is the debut studio album by the American doom metal band Trouble, released in 1984. The album was originally released eponymously and was renamed to Psalm 9 after the release of their fourth album, which was their 1990 self-titled release. Along with the Saint Vitus eponymous debut album from the same year, Psalm 9 is considered by many critics to be one of the first doom metal releases.

<i>The Skull</i> (album) 1985 studio album by Trouble

The Skull is the second studio album by the American doom metal band Trouble, released in 1985. It was the follow-up to their 1984 classic debut Psalm 9.

Berklee College of Music independent college of contemporary music in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Berklee College of Music is a private music college in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. Known for the study of jazz and modern American music, it also offers college-level courses in a wide range of contemporary and historic styles, including rock, flamenco, hip hop, reggae, salsa, heavy metal and bluegrass. Berklee alumni have won 294 Grammy Awards, more than any other colleges, and 95 Latin Grammy Awards. Other notable accolades include 19 Emmy Awards, 5 Tony Awards and 5 Academy Awards.

Rise to popularity and hiatus (1989-1996)

A three-year hiatus occurred before the band was snapped up by Rick Rubin's Def American Records for whom they recorded a second self-titled album ( Trouble ) in 1990 with Rubin producing. More experimental than previous efforts, the album (featuring new drummer Barry Stern, formerly of Zoetrope) expanded upon the group's tentative psychedelic notions within its traditional use of power chords.

Rick Rubin American music producer

Frederick Jay Rubin is an American record producer and former co-president of Columbia Records. Along with Russell Simmons, he is the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and also established American Recordings. With the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Geto Boys, and Run-DMC, Rubin helped popularize hip hop music.

Barry Stern was a heavy metal drummer from Chicago, Illinois.

Zoetrope was an American heavy metal band from Chicago, Illinois. Although their sound was akin to thrash metal, the group described themselves as "Street Metal". The group was formed in 1976 by teenage friends Barry Stern (drums/vocals), Kevin Michael Rasofsky, aka Kevin Michael, (guitar), and Calvin "Willis" Humphrey (bass), soon to be joined by second guitarist Ken Black. Initially playing covers, the band soon ventured into writing their own material and released a single in 1980. Although undeniably a metal band, Zoetrope was also active in Chicago's hardcore punk scene, sharing bills with locals hardcore bands and hanging out at O'Banions, a Chicago punk bar. Following the release of a couple of demo tapes, the group was signed to Combat Records and issued their first LP, Amnesty, in 1985. In 1987, the band traveled to Los Angeles to record their follow up, A Life of Crime, with producer Randy Burns. During the recording sessions, Ken Black left the band and returned to Chicago to sort out substance abuse issues. He was replaced by Louis Svitek. Although Svitek appears on the album's cover, Kevin Michael later confirmed that Ken Black had finished his guitar parts before leaving Los Angeles. During the tour supporting A Life of Crime, Svitek was recruited for M.O.D. by Billy Milano. After the tour, Barry Stern jumped ship to fellow Chicagoans Trouble. Kevin Michael eventually returned with a new line up for 1993's Mind Over Splatter but the band folded for good soon after.

The group embarked on a year-long tour before returning to the studio. In 1992 Manic Frustration was released, delving into Beatlesque psychedelia and featuring some of Trouble's most aggressive, energetic performances ever. But after the album failed to connect with a wider audience, the band was ultimately dropped by their record company, which was experiencing financial problems.

<i>Manic Frustration</i> 1992 studio album by Trouble

Manic Frustration is the fifth studio album by the American doom metal band Trouble, released in June 1992. The album marked a change in style toward a faster-paced, psychedelic sound; as opposed to the slower, doom metal style on their previous albums. It was the band's last release on Def American.

The band issued Plastic Green Head through the Music for Nations label in 1995 with the return of founding drummer Jeff Olson.

Eric Wagner Eric Wagner.jpg
Eric Wagner

Reunion and Simple Mind Condition (1997-2007)

Even though Trouble had gone on an extended hiatus after Wagner's departure, rumors of an eventual re-formation persisted. From 1997 to 2000, Wagner was replaced by former Exhorder singer Kyle Thomas, who played four public gigs with Trouble.

On January 26, 2002, Wagner, Franklin, Wartell, Holzner and Olson performed a short set in Chicago where during their smoking rendition of Black Sabbaths' Children of The Grave with Scott Davidson sitting in on the drums, the P.A. gave out and left the crowd in a stunned uproar. Since that time, the band has played individual gigs throughout the Chicago area and headlined metal festivals in Europe and the U.S. while working on a new album. A concert in Stockholm, Sweden in 2005 produced the live DVD "Trouble - Live in Stockholm" with members Eric Wagner, Rick Wartell, Bruce Franklin, Jeff Olson, and Chuck Robinson.

In February 2004, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters released a tribute album that paid homage to his metal roots. Entitled Probot, the disc featured various vocalists, including Eric Wagner, who sang on the track "My Tortured Soul". In the album's liner notes, Grohl wrote that buying Psalm 9 was like buying Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band .

Holzner left the band soon after, to be replaced by Chuck Robinson, who played on the band's newest studio album, Simple Mind Condition , which was released in Europe on April 3, 2007 by Escapi Music. The band toured internationally in support of its release, [9] but were not able to secure a U.S. release date for the album until over two years later. An unplugged album was later released through the band's website and, more recently, Escapi Music.

New singer(s) and The Distortion Field (2008-present)

Kory Clarke Trouble - Jalometalli 2008 - 05.jpg
Kory Clarke

In May, 2008, it was announced that Eric Wagner has left the band and had been replaced by Kory Clarke of Warrior Soul. [10] Jeff Olson also announced his departure from the band in July 2008 to continue with his own band, Retro Grave. [11] Olson's last show with Trouble was, coincidentally, at a rock club called, "The End" in Memphis, Tenn. [12] Olson was replaced by Wet Animal's Mark Lira for the band's upcoming U.S. East Coast tour. [13]

In a September 2008 interview with Rock N Roll Experience, guitarist Rick Wartell mentioned that Trouble has written "eight or nine songs" for their next album, and would begin recording it after touring. [14] When asked which direction is the new music going in, Wartell replied, "I know people have said this a million times and I know you've heard this a million times, but it's pretty fucking heavy, let's put it that way! The music end of it that Bruce [Franklin, guitar] and I are writing is getting heavier and's getting heavier and then we want Kory to incorporate his style to what we are doing, that's basically all that we really want out of this."

On November 18, 2008, Trouble announced, via their website, that they were in the process of writing songs for an album that would likely be released in the summer of 2009. A live bootleg recording featuring the new line-up was released via the band's website in 2008, then worldwide by Escapi Music about one year later. On March 4, 2009, Trouble revealed on their website that the new album would tentatively be called The Dark Riff. On September 9, 2010, the band announced that they are "getting ready for the studio now. [We] have been making preliminary recordings and working out things in order to bring the best possible Trouble release." [15] Bruce Franklin later said in a 2009 interview that The Dark Riff would not be the title of the forthcoming album.

Kyle Thomas Kyle Thomas, current singer of Trouble performing with Trouble in Lombard, Illinois.jpg
Kyle Thomas

In February 2012, Kory Clarke left Trouble. [16] Kyle Thomas, who was with the band from 1997 to 2000, took his place. Also in February, 2012, two original members of Trouble — vocalist Eric Wagner and drummer Jeff Olson — joined forces with the band's longtime bassist Ron Holzner in a new heavy rock/doom metal act called The Skull. According to a statement on the band's Facebook page, "The Skull is here to do one thing... rock you with the sounds and spirit of Trouble — past, present, future. [17] The Skull is planning a thirty-year celebration tour of Trouble's debut album, Psalm 9 in 2014. [18]

On February 16, 2013, Jeff Olson announced that he would be playing some keyboard intros on the new album. [19] In May 2013, it was announced that the new album, The Distortion Field, was scheduled to be released July 16 in North America and July 26 in Europe. This is the first release to feature Kyle Thomas, and was produced by Bill Metoyer. Shortly after its release, Rob Hultz of Solace and Godspeed joined the band as bassist. [20]

Trouble is currently writing new material for their next studio album, which is possibly due for release in 2016. [21]

Music and image

Flying V Rick Wartell's Flying V.jpg
Flying V

Trouble's music lies with a traditional doom metal style, although their albums since 1990's Trouble showcase a more stoner-metal oriented style. Band members have cited influences by the early heavy rock bands of the 1970s such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Budgie, and Black Sabbath, [7] Trouble have also incorporated elements of psychedelic rock to their style. Their music has been some of the slowest tempos being written at a time when NWOBHM and thrash metal bands were playing at increasingly faster speed. [5] While most slow songs by metal bands border into the area of ballads, all of the tracks on Trouble's second album The Skull are as heavy as they are slow, with a distinctive fuzzy distortion and melodic, integral (rather than superfluous or ostentatious) guitar solos. The band could best be described as combining the riffs and tempos of Black Sabbath with the twin guitar attack of Judas Priest.

Eric Wagner's lyrics deal with different themes, but the early Trouble albums, such as their debut Psalm 9, are known for biblical references. Especially because such themes were relatively uncommon in mainstream metal music of the 1980s, Trouble were then often classified as Christian metal. Other songs deal with social issues; "Bastards Will Pay," for instance, criticises politicians as hypocritical. From Manic Frustration onwards, more lyrical references have been made to psychedelia, drugs, and hallucinations; [7] "Hello Strawberry Skies" and "Mr. White" stand out as two examples. Corresponding with the increase in psychedelic lyrical themes, Trouble's overall sound has also had a noticeably stronger psychedelic component. [22] Also, unlike other metal acts of the 1980s, Trouble's members dress in ripped jeans, tight T-shirts, wear round sunglasses and have fringes and outfit accessories more characteristic of the hippie movement such as bandanas and knee patches. [23]


Problems with both the Metal Blade and Def American labels made it impossible for Trouble to achieve large commercial success. [5] Even though their music videos were aired on MTV in both the U.S. and Europe, Manic Frustration was the only album that sold close to 100,000 copies. [24] However, Eduardo Rivadavia of Allmusic wrote that "their preservation efforts nevertheless rescued metal's original blueprint from disuse, and carved it in granite for subsequent exploration by each new generation of doom bands that followed." [5] It was said that Trouble took up where Black Sabbath had left off after their split with vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. [25] Psalm 9 and The Skull are often cited as the cornerstones of doom metal [26] as well influencing other bands of the uprising metal movement during the mid-1980s. A famous story states that James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett from Metallica entered Trouble's stage after a concert, trying to figure out how their amplifiers were set to produce their unique sound. [25]

Trouble's first two albums were critically acclaimed and are respected in the metal scene. [27] The following album Run to the Light, however, was said to be "disappointing," [5] but a different direction was taken during the Def American era, when Rick Rubin helped the band to develop a new, unique style. The self-titled album gained "magnificent reviews in all the major heavy metal rags" [5] and the psychedelic Manic Frustration was "critically lauded, cult-raved heavy metal masterpiece." [5] The 1995's Plastic Green Head received good reviews, and "the album's songs also exuded a palpable sense of wary acceptance." [5] However, Trouble was never thought of as a completely unique group; some critiques dismissed the band as a "poor man's Black Sabbath". [28] Nevertheless, Trouble's influence on the metal movement is unquestioned. [27]


Current members
Former members
Trouble (band)


Studio albums
TitleYear of releaseLabel
Psalm 9 (formerly 'Trouble')1984 Metal Blade
The Skull 1985 Metal Blade
Run to the Light 1987 Metal Blade
Trouble 1990 Def American
Manic Frustration 1992 Def American
Plastic Green Head 1995 Century Media
Simple Mind Condition 2007Escapi Music
The Distortion Field 2013FRW Records
Live releases

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Saint Vitus (band) American doom metal band

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<i>Run to the Light</i> 1987 studio album by Trouble

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<i>Trouble</i> (Trouble album) 1990 studio album by Trouble

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<i>Plastic Green Head</i> 1995 studio album by Trouble

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Jeff Olson (musician) American musician

Jeff Olson is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, radio show host, and the original drummer for the legendary rock band, Trouble. He is also the founding member of Retro Grave, Keyboardist for Victor Griffin's In~Graved, proprietor of Upland Recording, and former drummer for The Skull.

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Retro Grave is an American heavy metal band formed in 2006 by Jeff Olson, original drummer from the internationally acclaimed doom metal band Trouble.

The Skull is a doom metal band founded by three former members of Trouble, vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff "Oly" Olson. The band's name is derived from Trouble's second album The Skull.


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