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Simple Mind Condition

Escapi Music (2007)
Rating: 8.5/10

I can’t imagine a world without Trouble. It has often been debated as to whether Trouble would’ve existed without Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, but I’m of the opinion they would have. These Chicago metallers have been around for what seems like centuries, and yet, criminally, only released a relatively small batch of records.

The early days saw the band offering thicker doomscapes but as they progressed to the monumental self-titled opus in 1990, they showed their Sabbath influence; producing what is without doubt one of metal’s greatest ever records. This was followed by the immaculate, yet sharper edged Manic Frustration (1992), which came complete with rainy psychedelia. Although 1995’s Plastic Green Head paled in comparison to these titanic records, it still crushed all competition.

There were many arguments between critics and fans alike as to whether these guys were doom metal, or should be tagged with the repulsive “stoner” label. Trouble is neither. They are simply a dark rock ’n’ roll band, taking influence from the 60s psychedelic scene, and the bluesier 70s dirge.

Simple Mind Condition is the last Trouble opus to feature Eric Wagner – frontman supreme, a gargantuan hybrid of Robert Plant and Ozzy Osbourne with those fuzzy locks and grating tones. From here the band would fizzle out, Wagner going his own way while the remaining members dabbled with Warrior Soul frontman Kory Clarke to no real effect.

Simple Mind Condition is the last word from this behemoth of a band, metal’s most underrated band of all time, a band so huge and heavy in sound, and yet so stormy in guise that their moniker has somewhat preceded them. Like all Trouble records, it features the staggering guitar avalanche of Bruce Franklin, bastard son of Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, and founder member Rick Wartell. The album also features drummer Jeff Olson and drummer Chuck Robinson, who replaced Ron Holzner.

The album kicks off with the whine of ‘Goin’ Home’, a stark landscape of a track given a lethal injection with that massive riff and Wagner’s distinctive raspy croon. Trouble are, put simply, the next step on from all that was and is great about rock ’n’ roll, the tragedy being of course that the mood swings and extended hiatus’ resulted in the band becoming nothing more than a genial enigma. The sad facts are, their albums have never sold well due to lack of promotion and label problems, yet when you hear a mammoth cut like the bluesy ‘Mindbender’ you can only shake your head in disbelief.

Admittedly, Simple Mind Condition isn’t Eric Wagner’s best vocal performance, but even a below form Wagner destroys the competition. The mesmerising ‘After The Rain’ is a perfect example of how the band shift moods into an almost serene and reflective ballad. Simple Mind Condition is riddled with monolithic riffs, punishing drums and weighty bass, but with every Trouble album comes the worry of when the next one would be released.

The peculiarly titled ‘Arthur Brown’s Whiskey Bar’ evokes images of late-60s psychedelia. Obscure in its intro it drifts by like a doomy Beatles / Black Sabbath hybrid, while the title track rumbles in on a 70s-styled riff.

Trouble have always kept things relatively simply, existing on dark riffs and misery-tinged lyrics, and again it works so well, climaxing in the quicksand chug of ‘If I Only Had A Reason’ with its Led Zeppelin-ish vocal soar on the chorus, and final track, ‘The Beginning Of Sorrows’, a mournful dirge laced with a rainy piano and David Bowie-esque that builds with a backing chug.

When introducing people to heavy metal, Trouble, alongside Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Slayer, are probably one of the main bands I speak of. Only the word “epic” can truly some up their gigantic and morose sound. Of course, there are some music fans that may not get the Trouble grind, but it’s their loss, because this is one band every metal head should have in their collection.

Simple Mind Condition is not Trouble’s best album, it was never going to be, but it’s still a mighty slab of a record.

Neil Arnold

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