TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS TRUCKFIGHTERS!!! Yeah, I’m a fan. It’s been a gradual process. When the band formed over 13 years ago, they were the newcomers to the vibrant stoner/fuzz/desert rock scene in Sweden, with bands like Dozer, Lowrider, Terra Firma, Mammoth Volume and Sgt. Sunshine. While Truckfighters shared a love of Kyuss with most of those bands, their sound also had hints of a variety of psych, prog and even alt rock influences like Soundgarden and Nirvana. By the time they released their third album Mania in 2009, they had perfected their signature sound, a perfect balance of primitive heavy riffing and ambitious, progressive song structures. It’s been a long time since that album, but they kept busy, filming a documentary and becoming one of the hardest working bands in Sweden, touring the U.S. three times since 2011, when few other bands have done so (only Graveyard has kept a similar pace). Last summer I got to see them twice in one day, playing to criminally small audiences. Those who have seen them are treated to one of the best, most energetic live shows in rock. Singer/bassist Ozo (Oskar Cedermalm), with his moppety blonde hair, stature and voice, reminded me a bit of Kurt Cobain when Nirvana were touring Bleach with TAD. Back then, it could have been conceivable had Nirvana continued to pursue their Melvins, TAD and Sabbath influences that they could have developed along the lines of Truckfighters. But none of those bands had a Dango. What’s a Dango? Dango (Niklas Källgren) is their secret weapon, an overly caffeinated Captain Caveman armed with a mind-blowing arsenal of fuzzy guitar tones and brilliant riffs. After seeing them the first time, I bought the tour t-shirt that proclaimed them “Probably the best band in the world.” It may be tongue in cheek, but as far as a band that you can still see in a small club, I wear it without irony.
Pretty far into their career, it seems possible Truckfighters can reach another level. Despite having to fund their fourth album Universe again on their own Fuzzorama label through Pledge Music, they have won over a growing audience in the past few years. Lead single “Prophet” has such a strong, gorgeous hook that some of the more conservative fans as sputtering in outrage. Which is ridiculous, as their alt rock influences have never been a secret. See their Spotify playlist which includes everything from The Black Keys, Temple Of The Dog and A Perfect Circle to Smashing Pumpkins, Opeth and Mastodon. Truckfighters have no problem doing simple songs, mostly on the more bludgeoning spectrum. But they can also do spacey, contemplative, and in the case of “Prophet,” incredibly catchy. On “Mind Control,” they kick off the album with a twee sounding intro that suggests the music coming from computer speakers or earbuds, then kicking into full bandwidth at 28 seconds. This is likely a tribute to Queens Of The Stone Age’s arguably greatest classic, Songs For The Deaf (2002) which starts in a similar manner. And it totally works! The first time I heard it I jumped out of my chair for some air guitar. If it weren’t for the fact that it was late, neighbors were sleeping and I had to work the next day, I would have poured some bourbon and made a night of repeated listenings and smashing things. It doesn’t hurt that “Mind Control” is a concise, killer summary of the band’s strengths, with Dango’s incredible guitar tones and riffs, and great performances from Ozo and Poncho (Andre Kvarnström, who took over the drum stool after Oscar “Pezo” Johansson left for Witchcraft).
“The Chairman” was first released last fall on a self-titled EP augmented by three other live cuts. It’s definitely a highlight, nearly eight minutes that shows off their aforementioned masterful balance of progressive experimentalism and stupid heavy riffs. The melodicism of “The Prophet” serves as a great bridge between “The Chairman” and the ambitiously psychedelic “Get Lifted,” which shows what a great vocalist Ozo has become, able to be restrained and subtle while conveying tension and emotional intensity. They even pull off some pretty nice harmonizing! The build-up to a heavy crescendo works beautifully, and will be something to behold live. “Convention” is only 1:42, but it’s densely packed with great vocal hooks and reaches the payoff riff near the end, leaving you wanting more, but a nice setup for “Dream Sale,” which has even more compelling melodies and riffs.
We’re left with only one more song, but it’s a whopper. The 13:53 “Mastadont” fleshes the album out at a satisfying 44:41. It’s a worthy successor of their last epic, the 13:18 long “Majestic” which served as the highlight on Mania. Some aren’t sure if it’s a positive or negative jokey reference to Atlanta prog-metallers Mastadon, but I’m certain the band are fans. The album closer has so much to offer, with no less than three climaxes, changes in dynamics and tempo, great solos and an acoustic outro, all executed without any loss of cohesion thanks to Ozo tying it all together with his strong vocal melody. Righteous.
It’s unfortunately safe to say Truckfighters will never be topping the Billboard charts or selling out stadiums, but it certainly isn’t for the lack of ability or quality. They have simply chosen a path and sound that they are passionate about that has not really crossed over to the mainstream, though I’m sure they will draw some increasingly huge crowds at some of the European festivals. But Universe cements their status as far as I’m concerned as one of the all time great rock bands. Anyone who appreciates heavy, fuzzy rock and do not acknowledge the greatness of this band are seriously assholes. For real, no winky faces. | Amazon | iTunes | ImportCDs | Spotify