Twelve years is a long time between albums and the gap shows in the seventh studio effort from Chicago's near-legendary doom-metal masters, TROUBLE. "Simple Mind Condition" contains a number of heavy riffs and much of this band's classic signature sound, but at the same time, there's a sense of rehashing the past and even a palpable fatigue running through the record. It seems like after more than a decade, the band (which currently boasts four original members) can replicate its sound effortlessly, but not the fire that first drove its music.
Stylistically, the album is more in line with the band's latter, psychedelic-tinged records like 1990's "Trouble" and 1992's "Manic Frustration", both of which were brilliant progressions from the group's earlier, even sludgier sound. It might have been interesting for them to revisit their roots in a modern context, but "Simple Mind Condition" plays out as just a sequel to the later records instead. Opener "Goin' Home" plods along on a fairly generic riff, offering no excitement, and while things perk up a bit with the more aggressive "Seven" and "Pictures of Life", the album stalls out with "After the Rain", a tired, far inferior retread of melancholy classics like "Memory's Garden" and "The Misery Shows".
Guitarists Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin do come up with an assembly of solid lead work, and their mournful, dark tones strike a nostalgic chord even if a lot of the riffs, on songs like "Trouble Maker", are unremarkable. Things get even more psychedelic on "Arthur Brown's Whiskey Bar", with singer Eric Wagner delivering a spoken-word intro before the band crashes into one of its doomier moments. These brief moments of excitement, however, are not sustained across the whole record, and while Wagner's voice is still in reasonably good shape, too often he sounds disinterested in what he's singing. It's always telling when the most striking song on the record is a cover, in this case the Lucifer's Friend proto-metal classic, "Ride in the Sky".
TROUBLE was a band that should have been massive — early Metal Blade releases like the band's debut and "The Skull" picked up the mantle from Seventies icons like BLACK SABBATH and arguably set the standard for all doom metal that's come in their wake. The later records tempered that with more melody and psychedelic elements while still packing a wallop. And I have to admit that even substandard TROUBLE can rock harder than many of the bands who have imitated them. But after 12 years, it might not be that simple for this once-incredible act to recapture the magic.