Today, Chicago’s The Skull release their debut single on Tee Pee Records. Sometime Yesterday Mourning b/w The Last Judgment arrives preceded by much anticipation as the first studio output from the Trouble offshoot, fronted by the inimitable Eric Wagner and featuring Trouble alumni Ron Holzner (bass), Jeff “Oly” Olson (drums) and Chuck Robinson (guitar) in the five-piece lineup with Lothar Keller of Sacred Dawn. Its two songs were produced by Billy Anderson (Sleep, the Melvins, Acid King, so many others), and for classic Trouble fans, the inclusion of “The Last Judgment” is a bonus — the song minus an ‘e’ from when it appeared as “The Last Judgement” on Trouble‘s own recorded debut on the 1983 Metal Massacre IV compilation.
Right away then, The Skull seem to be geared toward a classic sound, and “Sometime Yesterday Mourning,” the first taste of their new, original material, feeds into that framework. Keller‘s guitar — I’m fairly certain Robinson wasn’t in the band yet when these were recorded — meters out a steady chug of a central riff to start, and he’s soon joined by Holzner‘s bass and Olson on drums, setting up a well-paced groove for Wagner‘s entry. When the vocals hit, they do so in crooning fashion, Wagner keeping to the lower end of his famous range for the verse while layering in higher-register parts for the chorus; a formidable hook worthy of the band’s pedigree. It’s an earthy sound but given ambient vitality later in its progression by the lead guitar and Wagner‘s suitably mournful echoing deeper in the mix, proving as an initial showcase that there’s more to The Skull‘s approach than riffs and familiar faces.
Trouble‘s “The Last Judgement” was also featured on their 1983 demo and has shown up on a few compilations since, and The Skull give it a respectful update. Following a descending pattern of tom hits from Olson, we’re greeted by rhythm and lead guitar interplay before moving into the rush of the song itself, crisp with Anderson‘s recording, and Wagner in a vocal duel with himself. He’s not quite looking to wail in the same way as 31 years ago, but he changes up his approach dynamically almost on a per-line basis and ultimately makes both faster and slower parts more engaging, the guitar taking over in the second half for a solo that furthers The Skull‘s allegiance to traditional metal, mounting a build all the way to the sudden ending, the vocals almost (but not) cut off for the last line, “It’ll be alright,” just as they were in the original version.
The real kicker about Sometime Yesterday Mourning b/w The Last Judgment is how well the two songs work next to each other despite the decades between when they were written. I doubt The Skull intended to give a lesson about the timelessness of doom on their first single so much as give a taste of what their debut full-length might have to offer sound-wise, but you won’t find me complaining with their having accomplished both.
Please find the two tracks below for your streaming pleasure, and enjoy:
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The Skull‘s Sometime Yesterday Morning b/w The Last Judgment is available now through Tee Pee Records digitally and as a limited CD pressing. More info at the links.