The Phantom Tollbooth
Artist: Travail
Label: Pluto Records
Length: 34:23 minutes/ 9 tracks

Here we go again. Yet another Christian band touted as an "alternative" to Korn and Limp Bizket. These constant comparisons make me wonder: what are Christian kids listening to more, the aforementioned bands, or these label-pushed "safe alternative" bands? Bands such as EDL, POD, and now, Travail, are all solid bands in their own respects, and ought not be compared to the highly popular pseudo-metal/hip-hop bands that dominate the mainstream market.

Travail, a hardcore troupe from Texas, shows some modest hip-hop influences with "Anchor of My Soul." This is actually a re-press, the first pressing of 1,000 copies having sold out.

Musically, Travail throws out some very tight grooves, accompanied by the scratchy vocals of lead throat Matt. Such songs as "Beaten" and "Lies"  showcase the band's ability to really lay down a thick groove and strong lyrics. But Travail also seems to suffer a bit from the "POD Syndrome," ruining the intensity of several songs with throw-away solos and Carmen-esque spoken word parts.

Lyrically, Travail boldly proclaims the Gospel; such songs as "Opposition" are self-explanatory:

Production is another problem the band struggles with on this release, the album either being mastered or recorded at too low a level to produce satisfying volume. Still, the intensity of the band is unquestioned.

Despite the aforementioned problems, given time and the care of an understanding label, Travail night really produce some fine material in the near future. This band, and this album, are clearly diamonds in the rough.

Joe Rockstroh (7-21-99)