The name Eric Wagner is one that is held in high esteem in my book of doom. His former band, Trouble, made a handful of classic doom metal albums, most notably 'Psalm 9' from 1984, the self-entitled album from 1990, 'Manic Frustration' from 1992 and 'Plastic Green Head' from 1995. When I saw finally saw Trouble at Wacken a few years back, I was happy as a chipmunk with a big bag of peanuts, even if this was the Kory Clarke version of the Chicago doom squad. I did wonder, of course, if the experience could have been a tad better with the original voice of the band.
Wagner does have a special voice, and of course it comes out on this first full album from Blackfinger. The single 'All The Leaves Are Brown' was released in 2011, the song also being included on the album.
A voice like that is both a blessing and a curse. Listening to the Blackfinger debut, you can't help comparing the album to Wagner's past, and you can't help looking for similarities. The similarity is very much there, because Wagner's voice is as dominating as it is, and it's difficult to see past it and take the music at face value. I constantly think of Trouble when listening to Blackfinger, that's just the way it is, even if I also acknowledge that only two or three songs actually sound very much like Trouble songs. There are quite a few quiet songs on this album, and they tend to sound less Trouble than the heavier songs where the guitar sound is very close to that of the doom legends. This is the case with for example Yellowood, Here Comes the Rain and My Many Colored Days.
Again, the characteristic voice can be a blessing and a curse. Wagner's voice is an acquired taste, and I always liked it. However, that said, there are, in my humble opinion, a couple of misses on the Blackfinger album. In the song Yellowood the good old voice of doom is something I can only regard as downright out of key in a couple of (important) instances, and it kind of ruins the song for me. Later, in Till Death Do Us Part, he simply doesn't get the pitch right according to the tuning of the guitars. This is naturally a trifle disappointing for an old fan like yours truly.
Apart from that, there is a lot of beautiful, low key, melancholy material on 'Blackfinger', and this beauty and melancholy is really what drives the album. The album opener, I Am Jon, is an astonishing piece and quite frankly worth all the money if you consider purchasing this album.
In sum, the debut from legendary doom voice Eric Wagner's new band, Blackfinger, isn't as powerful in its entirety as one could have hoped for, but it certainly has beautiful moments full of appropriate amounts of melancholy. Go check it out.