Venue: Reggie’s Rock Club – Chicago, Illinois
Event date: March 24, 2017
Special guests: Wretch – Romero – Wrath
Reviewed by Michael Juvinall – Horror Patch
Special thanks to Edgar Oprondek (Dot to Dot Management) and Kelsie Janssen (Reggie’s Rock Club)!
To begin, a brief history lesson. I know I’m dating myself here but when I was a young teenage metal head back in 1984, I bought an album by a then unknown band to me – Trouble ‘Psalm 9’. At the time I was into thrash metal and the likes of Slayer, Metallica, Exodus and so on. When I slapped that slab of vinyl onto my record player I was blown away. I was blown away by the sound of Trouble – the slow, supremely heavy crunching riffs of that album. In my humble opinion, Trouble is the greatest doom metal band of all-time. Now with that being said, long-time lead singer, principal song writer, and co-founder of Trouble, Eric Wagner left the band in 2008 and formed new band The Skull in 2012. Wagner brought with him to his new band bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff Olson – both of which were former members of Trouble.
The Skull played the same devastating style of doom metal as Trouble. They played their own material as well as Trouble’s library of songs mainly because Wagner wrote most of that material and has the rights to play them.
With all that out of the way, the first band to play for the evening was Romero. This stoner metal band hails from Madison, Wisconsin.
Their set lasted for 30 minutes and they played well. I was not familiar with Romero so I didn’t know any of their songs but they sounded great and their mixing was adequate. They’re not a particularly heavy band but were good musicians.
3 out of 5 Pentagrams!
Up next were Chicago natives and thrash metallers Wrath. Wrath have been around since 1982 and I was very familiar with their early efforts. I was extremely anxious to see this band because I played their first two albums to death when I was young. Unfortunately, they did not play any of their early material. I was very disappointed in this. There are only two original members of the band still playing. Their set also lasted for 30 minutes.
Wrath sounded awesome! They were very heavy and really got the crowd riled up with their music. The level of musicianship was exceptional – this band really knows how to play. They weren’t too distorted and are old-school thrash metal at its best!
4 out of 5 Pentagrams!
The last supporting band to play was Wretch. They are a doom metal band out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Wretch was a fun trio with incredible sound. They are a classic doom metal group and were pretty heavy. I enjoyed their sound and they kept the fans into the show in preparation for The Skull.
They played for 30 minutes.
3 ½ out of 5 Pentagrams!
Finally, The Skull took the stage and the completely full venue came alive. They started out with a medley of songs from Trouble. After “The Tempter”, “Psalm 9”, and “Bastards Will Pay” they could’ve ended the show right there and I and most of the crowd would’ve been happy with that. But The Skull played for 100 minutes and gave the crowd everything they could’ve wanted.
The Skull played a mixture of original material and Trouble songs – both of which were heavy as Hell! I’m not sure how these guys get their amps to sound the way they do but I’ve never heard a heavier band in my life! It was brain melting, skull crunching heaviness with track after track.
The Skull may not be known by the masses but these guys are master musicians and rightly deserve their place in metal history.
About midway through the show, guitarist Lothar Keller suffered some technical difficulties with his equipment. While he and the crew were trying to work out the problem, front man Eric Wagner entertained the crowd for about ten minutes. He was talking to the folks in the crowd, trying to keep everyone in the mood until the technical stuff was fixed. When finished, the band rolled right back into the heaviness like nothing ever happened.
The Skull ended the show with a much-applauded encore and then they were done. I’ve seen a lot of shows by a lot of bands over the years but I don’t think I’ve ever head a live group sound as good as The Skull did.
I had a lot of anticipation for The Skull show mainly because I’ve listened to Trouble for over 35 years and they didn’t disappoint in the slightest. One of my bucket list items was to see Trouble perform someday and it came true with The Skull. No, it’s not really Trouble, but it might as well be for me. With original bassist Ron Holzner and Eric Wagner on vocals – They’re better than Trouble. Anyone can play the music and sound like Trouble but without Eric Wagner up front, The Skull is as close a thing to Trouble you can get.
One of the best concerts of my life!
5 out of 5 Pentagrams!