The Skull – “For Those Which Are Asleep”


theskullthosecd The Skull could be said to be resurrected from the wind-blown ravages of Trouble. So here is a quick recap of Trouble’s career through traditional doom. Their best known Metal Blade releases are ‘Trouble’ {later renamed as ‘Psalm 9’} (1984), ‘The Skull’ (1985), with a less enthusiastic response to ‘Run to the Light’ (1987). They moved onto stoner metal for ‘Trouble’ (1990), ‘Manic Frustration’ (1992), ‘Plastic Green Head’ (1995) and ‘Simple Mind Condition’ (2007).

Eric Wagner’s lyrics on ‘Psalm 9’ were notable for the biblical overtones, because they were unusual in mainstream metal of the eighties. The Skull’s debut album features original Trouble vocalist Eric Wagner alongside former Trouble bassist Ron Holzner and former Trouble drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson with guitarist Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) and Matt Goldsborough (Pentagram). The band’s main aim is to bring back the American Doom Metal band sound of Trouble combined with new material. Their debut album ‘For Those Which Are Asleep’ was released in November 2014 via Tee Pee Records.

The Tee Pee Records press release states “For Those Which Are Asleep features ten tracks of elemental Heavy Metal and is the first full length album to feature Wagner, Holzner and Olson since the 1995 release of Trouble’s critically acclaimed LP Plastic Green Head. The new record’s greatest strength is how well it captures the apocalyptic trudge that Trouble delivered from the first downbeat of their 1984 debut, but now unequivocally propelled by the hallmarks of a hungry new band fuelled by new blood. The mighty voice of Wagner is on full display; the vocalist proving on For Those Which Are Asleep that he still wields an eerie power at the mic. Titanic riffs abound as Keller and Goldsborough weave ominous atmospheres over the molten, crushing core of Holzner and Olson’s sinister strut. Make no mistake, THE SKULL are in complete command of their craft and have capably created a modern classic; a recording where atmosphere is established as drums crash, guitars blare and stories are told.”

Their opener ‘Trapped Inside My Mind’ sticks close to traditional doom as they trudge along with Eric Wagner’s trademark high vocals, before picking up the pace. “After all these years / It’s becoming quite clear / For as long as we both shall live / Oh no, trapped inside my mind”. Following this with ‘The Touch of Reality’ takes me further back to Ozzy era Black Sabbath with the slow chugging guitars. Although there isn’t a dual guitar attack, there are brief bursts of scorching guitar solos. As if to make amends ‘Sick of It All’ keeps it vocals to the first half and allows more space for an instrumental flurry in the second half.

‘The Door’ takes an already sorrowful mood to a darker place as it swirls and eddies along. This features more keyboards and as Eric sings in a lower key, it gives a more gothic feel in keeping with the moodiness. Next up is one of my personal favourites, ‘Send Judas Down’ with its foreboding baritone drawl offset against a soaring guitar solo. “So God if you can hear me / Send Judas down / Insight brings pain you see / Send Judas down”.

‘A New Generation’ would like to remind the newcomers that there are still have lessons to learn. “Look all around / There’s a new generation / Deliver us from evil / Not into temptation”. There is a count-in for the vibrant ‘Till the Sun Turns Black’ which is another short track.

My other favourite is the epic ‘For Those Which Are Asleep’ which starts off with the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar before the leaden sludge is poured on. “Don’t you think / That I won’t weep / For those which are asleep / Let us pray / Your soul to keep / For those which are asleep”. The guitar solo is in the middle section, which then allows the mood to be stripped back with suitable understated drumming, before return to crushing riffs as technical drumming come to the fore.

There is a long fade out, before ‘Sometime Yesterday Mourning’ compliments the reverential cover of the first song Trouble ever released (1983) on a Metal Massacre compilation, ‘The Last Judgment’. It also features guest guitar from Michael Carpenter (Sacred Dawn).

In keeping with the throwback to earlier times, producer Billy Anderson has given the album a warm, fat sound that is missing from many new releases.

Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by Peter John Willoughby

1. Trapped Inside My Mind
2. The Touch of Reality
3. Sick of It All
4. The Door
5. Send Judas Down
6. A New Generation
7. Till the Sun Turns Black
8. For Those Which Are Asleep
9. Sometime Yesterday Mourning
10. The Last Judgment (Trouble cover)

Eric Wagner – Vocals
Ron Holzner – Bass
Jeff “Oly” Olson – Drums, Keyboards
Matt Goldsborough – Guitars
Lothar Keller – Guitars

Michael Carpenter – Lead guitar (Track 10)

Record label: Tee Pee Records, Nov. 2014

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