Few titles could be as apt as the one for, doom legend, Eric Wagner’s posthumous solo album. The former Trouble frontman’s untimely death last year came as a body blow to the scene, an irreconcilable sense of loss at one of the originators passing. Wagner’s voice and the psychedelic spiritualism of his lyrics have been an inspiration to everyone from Kyuss to Paradise Lost and Anathema, and his shamanic presence of a performer made any band he performed with (be that Trouble, The Skull or the Anathema collab, Lid) a must see. All of this makes listening to In theLonely Light of Mourning a deeply bittersweet experience. On the one hand it’s a reminder of the incredible talent that the world of underground music has lost, and on the other it’s a fittingly moving tribute to the man, an unintentional farewell gift of some of the most eclectic and emotional music of his career.
Album opener ‘Rest in Peace’ feels something like a statement of intent. A slinky doom-laden riff and Bonham-esque drum groove create a suitably powerful slice of no-frills rock over which Wagner’s voice sores as he contemplates the nature of life and mortality. While the album takes a number of different creative turns, this simple yet muscular song lays out the reason we’re all here, the majesty of that voice and Wagner’s lyrics. ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ manages to evoke the warm, psych-tinged sound of Trouble’s self-titled, Rick Rubin produced album, while also harkening back to the harrowing cautionary tales of their first two albums. ‘If You Lost It All’ presents the first curveball of the album, with guitar riffs abandoned entirely and replaced by plaintive cello chords that make something of a goth metal-tinged power ballad, Wagner’s influence on My Dying Bride feeding back into him.
The triple guitar thrum of ‘Walk With Me to the Sun’ is a mammoth sun-bleached bit of rock that wouldn’t be out of place on a Soundgarden album (not a criticism), while the title track starts with a lilting melody before erupting into an epic, melancholy chorus that reminds the listener just how anthemic doom can be. Since Wagner first emerged in ‘84 with Trouble’s debut album, he had a lyrical preoccupation with death and mourning, which obviously is given an extra poignance here, but he also counterbalanced them with tales of redemption and peace. Closing track ‘Wish You Well’ is an energetic salutation to the world, a warm-hearted goodbye laced with hints of NWOBHM guitar.
While In the Lonely Light of Mourning was never intended to be a eulogy for Eric Wagner, it does work perfectly as a stunning tribute to the man’s talent and a moving final chapter in a career that has influenced so many. Goodbye Eric, thanks for everything.
In the Lonely Light of Mourning is out now via Cruz Del Sur Music and can be ordered here.
Words: Dan Cadwallader