Written by: AP on 16/02/2014 13:33:57

Founded in 2001, Örebro's Truckfighters have established themselves as the premier stoner rock act in Sweden, and in the process, made a prominent name for themselves in international circles as well. They've nonetheless managed to evade my scrutiny thus far, despite releasing three full-length albums as and a plethora of EPs and splits over the last 13 years, but 2014 is, given the rising popularity of the more traditional sub genres of rock worldwide, I feel, high time to hop on the bandwagon and attempt to discern what it is that makes Truckfighters such a talked about band. This fourth LP "Universe" was originally set for release in the fall last year, but was then pushed back to January this year due to unforeseen circumstances - a decision which meant that I have been able to afford much more time for gorging on and dissecting its many merits than would have been the case last year given my travels and the Stau-situation of my review queue back then.

Truckfighters have often been labeled as a desert rock band in the vein of Fu Manchu, Kyuss and such, but to me, the prevalent sound on "Universe" at least draws my thoughts toward Baroness on their "Yellow & Green" double album. If desert rock was the most applicable term in the past, then the melancholy tone, strong bass presence and Oskar 'Ozo' Cedermalm's emotive singing all point toward a change of scenery into more psychedelic, dreamy and spacious territory (betrayed, I suppose, by the album's title). It's not the sort of deep space exploration that Monster Magnet's classic "Dopes to Infinity" was, for example, though, as each track here is held aloft by a heart beating for honest, grassroots rock'n'roll. Rather, the psychedelic nuances stem from Cedermalm's contemplative style and occasional use of a slight reverb effect on his singing, and from the trio's periodic lapses into lengthy, eye-shutting instrumental jams (listen to "The Chairman" for a fantastic example of this).

Without the pretense of claiming false familiarity with the discography of this band, I readily assign this characteristic to them: Truckfighters have an uncanny knack for transforming a typically introverted genre into music that's catchy on the ear as well as heavy and musing. Opening track "Mind Control" is a prime example of this, thundering in with a riveting mid-tempo charge that sounds not at all unlike Baroness' brilliant "Take My Bones Away". As if often the case when the bassist of a band is also its frontman, Cedermalm's instrument occupies an exceptional amount of the soundscape (to no detrimental effect, mind you), meaning that this and each subsequent track hits you with all the semblance of a sledgehammer - to borrow one of the most trite expressions in reviewing culture. But there are of course periods of temperance amidst, too, which divulge guitarist Niklas 'Dango' Källgren's flair for an intoxicating melody or sizzling blues riff, and give rise to the intriguing call-and-response dynamics that both "Mind Control" and "The Chairman" are representative of, Källgren's dreamy tinkering met (sometimes intertwined, as "Convention" reveals) with the distorted earth rattling rumble of Cedermalm's instrument and powerful vocals.

"Universe" has the advantage of not attempting to pack too much material within the confines of one disc, as at just seven songs, lengthy though some of them may be, there is very little room for weak moments. And such are at a complete absence, much to my delight, with even the least compelling track "Convention" managing to awaken in me some of the sensations that abandoned and then escaped me once "Yellow & Green" exited my recurrent listening cycle. Well, with the exception of portions of Monster Magnet's latest "Last Patrol", that is (and indeed, this is another resemblance begging for a mention). It also has the advantange of having been written by Truckfighters, simply. Whether it is the explorative prog grandeur of "Get Lifted" or the haunting indelibility of the standout "Prophet", Truckfighters show panache often lacking in a genre traditionally pre-occupied with a scorching riff.

The songs here are tied by an atmosphere lost in reverie, and by assigning the responsibility to the mood and tone to capture the listener, Truckfighters are left with free reins to unfold their individual talents, and to flush their music with maddening hooks. The positive consequence of this approach is a collection of songs drenched in detail, texture and subtle nuances (notice, for instance, the evocative infusion of cello, and the way in which Källgren's guitar gradually becomes one with it in the gargantuan conclusive piece "Mastodont"); songs that may not enforce their mark with immediate effect, but which grow and evolve with each successive listen. Having given "Universe" a deservedly intensive spinning cycle, I thus feel absolutely confident in nominating it as one my personal albums of the year, and certainly the best I've had the pleasure to listen to thus far in 2014.

Download: Mind Control, The Chairman, Prophet, Dream Sale, Mastodont
For the fans of: (new) Baroness, Fu Manchu, Kyuss, Monster Magnet
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.01.2014
Fuzzorama Records

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