The Skull – “The Endless Road Turns Dark” (Tee Pee Records)
Anyone familiar with the legend of Trouble will lap this up in an instant! Renowned for starting a resurgence in classic doom, Trouble went through several incarnations, the 2nd of which saw a more bluesy element take root and later, even a psychedelic groove. Formed in 2012 by original Trouble members vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff ‘Oly’ Olson, The Skull performs a large portion of Trouble’s first two pioneering doom metal albums “Psalm 9” and “The Skull” in addition to other Trouble classics. Given the obvious popularity of the band, it was hardly a surprise that they soon began penning their own material, resulting in 2014’s acclaimed debut “For Those Which Are Asleep”. Since then they have toured regularly, and while losing Oly along the way, Holzner and Wagner have recruited a solid band around them, which impresses all the more on this incredible sophomore. Right off, it’s pretty clear that all the aforementioned styles of Trouble are displayed across the 8 tracks here and brother, are they deep! The twin guitars of Lothar Keller and Rob Wrong are perfect in their tone that is always dark with just the right measure of fuzz and reverb while also taking wah, trippy psych sounds and pure American hard rock when needed. Wagner has never sounded better with his trademark style! Thanks to a sterling production, the clear but thick sound only adds to richness of the songs, thus befitting the pedigree of this band, who by now have established themselves as a name in their own right. From the syrup sombreness of ‘Thy Will Be done’ with Wagner’s gentle soul gliding over the smog heavy doom to the ultra heavy rock of ‘Ravenswood’ which rages and swaggers to a monster groove propelled by wah, it’s pretty clear that The Skull have all the glory of Trouble while being a band of today. On ‘Breathing Underwater’ they move into trippy doom psych, with plenty of atmospheric guitars effortlessly sliding into pure droning doomentia as Holzner’s crunching bass really adds the ballsy heaviness, while on ‘The Longing’ it’s very much a case of ‘End Of My Daze’ with a thick but catchy rolling riff and lots of wailing psych and hard rock guitar. Most impressive for me however, was ‘All That Remains (Is True)’, a dark ballad that built movingly into an epic piece with plenty of soulful guitar to match Wagner’s melancholic vocals, unashamed in its emotional expression while still proudly retaining its doom (lite) sound. An awesome release that not only justifies the cult status of this band, but prompts more than ever before their return to the main stage.