After ten years of hard work in the face of adversity, doom metal kings Trouble had seen it all, and after making an incredible comeback with their self-titled fourth album in 1990, the band once again teamed up with producer (and label boss) Rick Rubin for 1992's appropriately titled Manic Frustration. On this occasion, the Chicago-based quintet finally decided to take a chance on expanding its puritanical doom outlook, and infused the album with additional retro-rock inspirations such as acid rock, psychedelia, and Beatlesque variety, resulting in the band's most unique and user-friendly work. From the very get-go, the Hendrix-ian "Come Touch the Sky" literally burst off into the lysergic stratosphere and the mock apology of "'Scuse Me" vented years and years of living-out-of-time frustration in under three minutes, while the hallucinogenic likes of "Rain" and "Mr. White" seemed to represent the polar emotional opposites of the hippie generation's naïve idealism (the first was Woodstock, the second Altamont). Less adventurous, riff-based creations like "The Sleeper," "Tragedy Man," and the title track afforded old-time fans a few opportunities to reconnect with Trouble's Sabbath-derived origins, but Manic Frustration's defining triumphs were undoubtedly those that dared mesh together all elements of Trouble's expanded musical kaleidoscope. And so, one is inevitably drawn to the sheer guitar-shredding fantasy and frenzy of "Hello Strawberry Skies," the unsettling comedown and blissful return provided by the gentle "Breathe...," and the staggering majesty of "Memory's Garden" (all highlights of Trouble's career), where singer Eric Wagner's mournful bray spins a tale of loss, faith, and hope of simply chilling proportions. Sadly, none of these were capable of stopping Manic Frustration's title from ringing horribly prophetic after its release, when Trouble once again faced the mixed blessings of widespread critical acclaim but no significant album sales beyond the underground heavy metal faithful.
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia