RSS Feed


Church Within (2014)
Rating: 9/10

It’s hard to believe that former Trouble frontman Eric Wagner has seemingly been away from the music scene since 2007, but during that time he hasn’t been idle and Blackfinger is the result – a new doom metal band featuring the line-up of Wagner (vocals), Doug Hakes and Rico Bianchi (guitars), Ben Smith (bass) and Larry Piatz (drums).

Blackfinger began gigging in 2010 but it has taken almost four years for the combo to release this debut self-titled debut platter, and what an immense record it is, boasting the sort of quality that a majority of so-called doom metal bands could only dream of writing. With Trouble continuing, to my dismay with Kyle Thomas on vocals, I’ve missed Wagner’s earthy rasp.

The melancholic drone of ‘I Am Jon’ enters the graveyard with its monolithic drum plod and Eric Wagner’s sombre narration. It’s the sort of number that cements itself into doom metal folklore as it comes complete with stirring guitars and rumbling bass and stirs me from my dormancy.

‘Yellowood’ is an oaken chug of a track; it has all the echoes of classic Trouble with that sleepy groove before the drum rattle dismantles the speakers and Wagner whines through the rain with an ominous arrogance, putting all pretenders to shame. The sprigs of psychedelia are ever-present, not just musically with those guitars which shift from grey swirling gloom to rose-tinted kaleidoscopes, but lyrically too, with the likes of ‘Why God’ lazily emerging from the shade of the stark trees to taint the black waters with their acidic hue.

Many may ask what the difference between Blackfinger and Trouble is, and the main separation is that this record has a more laid-back, mellow feel; a composition of dark and light that never breaks into a storm, but merely hints at sadness, but also providing hope. A prime example of this being the majestic ‘On Tuesday Morning’ which surfaces with its enchanting opening of pleasant guitar and tip-toe drums. Lyrically it’s summery and hazy as Wagner muses, “I have to admit I’m a little confused, this is the strangest life… I feel like I’m being us; I think I am here just to remind you, see all the good things under the sun…” before the outfit lurch into that psych-tinged chorus groove.

‘As Long As I’m With You’ bleeds through the system on merely a sullen piano and a sweeping string that evokes images of loss before Wagner’s deep tones narrate again, “Mother, may I go outside, before it starts to rain”, and as always in that tone there is an air of the beautiful yet the ominous, once again showcasing the peaks and troughs of this formidable record.

Although the track is an ashen ballad, it also exists as a lovelorn rhapsody and in its stripped back form it remains the album’s most endearing, heartfelt strain, which is contrasted by the megalithic chug of ‘Here Comes The Rain’, where the guitars once again drive as hard as the downpour, backed by dull thudding drums and woven by that doomy bass. Again it hints at Trouble at their most mercurial and mysterious, marrying Black Sabbath with Led Zeppelin but with a spine of the frighteningly unique.

Elsewhere, we’re treated to the wistful echoes of ‘Keep Fallin’ Down’, a mere acoustic caress on the ears with morose strings and reflective lyrics. The track also features a killer solo, the best on the record. But those hoping for a weighty return to Trouble’s murkier days will no doubt be joyed by tracks such as ‘My Many Colored Days’ and the stabbing groove of ‘All The Leaves Are Brown’.

Eleven tracks of classic doom ’n’ roll, Blackfinger’s debut slab boasts enough swagger and sway to accompany one through the ever-changing seasons. Full of emotion, it’s a brooding work of art from a band who effortlessly have reminded us what is so evocative about the darker side of life, and long may Blackfinger rain!

Neil Arnold

<< Back to Album & EP Reviews

Related Posts via Categories