Truckfighters – V (Century Media)

Truckfighters - V (Century Media, 2016)It’s no secret that Truckfighters is one of my very favorite bands. Their live performances provide everything I would want in a heavy rock show — intense energy, great musicianship, humor, volume, fuzz, riffs, and more fuzz. Their albums are no slouch too. While Kyuss are without a doubt the key innovators of the genre (desert/stoner/heavy psych rock, or as Truckfighters have branded, fuzz), and while Truckfighters may not be experimental or groundbreaking, they have fine tuned their style to absolute perfection on their five albums, and no small achievement. Not just in preparation for the new album, I often listen to their first four studio albums (and their recent live album), probably more than almost any other band, including Kyuss and Colour Haze. Taken as a whole or focused individually, they all still sound magnificent. Over a decade after their debut full-length, I haven’t grown tired of any of their music, which always transports me. Measured up against that body of work, their fifth album V doesn’t disappoint.

Truckfighters: A Study in FUZZA Study in FUZZ.

Along with Kyuss and initial contemporaries like Dozer, Truckfighter’s desert rock sound includes plenty of other elements of hard rock, prog and even grunge. While their sound remains immediately identifiable, it does shift from album to album. For example, on Universe (2014) they played around with some hooky, melodic songwriting. V is more a slowly simmering and expanding beast that might languish in longish meditative songs over six minutes each, is both expansive and heavy, relying more on Ozo’s (vocalist Oskar Cedermalm) thundering bass.

The sprawling 8:33 opener “Calm Before The Storm” and “The Contract” bring to mind both Alice In Chains and TOOL.  The proggy bits manage to sound more straightforward and direct than a lot of contemporary bands, which suit Truckfighters just fine.  Plenty of other bands have specialized in long songs, most recently the avant prog doom of SubRosa and fellow Swedes Witchcraft. Truckfighters are best at giving a feeling of taking a trip without getting boring.  They never present themselves as baleful as  a doom band, but man, check out the video below for “Calm Before The Storm.” That is some dark stuff, giving the slowly building track a more menacing edge. In both of the epic tracks, the band breaks from stealth mode into explosive action multiple times, and it’s glorious every time.

“Hawkshaw” begins with tom toms courtesy of  Danial Israelsson A.K.A El Danno, the band’s eighth drummer, which probably breaks Spinal Tap’s record. The bass comes in, unadorned and distorted, almost sounding like The Jesus Lizard. Dango’s (Niklas Kallgren) guitar playing is somewhat simpler than on the last album, but sounds more massive than ever, as he fine tunes his pedals and effects over the years.

“The 1” and “Gehenna” take a trip back to earlier days, with the latter particularly standing out as a highlight that could have fit on Gravity X without repeating themselves.  On “Fiend” Ozo really pushes himself with some pretty ambitious vocal melodies. If anything is an underacknowledged asset, it’s his vocals, which often take the back seat to the band’s live instrumental fury. It didn’t help that the first time I saw the band, two amps broke, the second literally catching on fire, and we couldn’t hear his voice much. If the recent live album is any indication, the vocals are becoming more prominent. “Storyline” begins with a stately, mournful melody that brings to mind the mood of Pallbearer’s “The Ghost I Used To Be,” but with acoustic breaks where Ozo’s vocals bring to mind Mark Lanegan of The Screaming Trees and Queens Of The Stone Age.

Truckfighters albums have never topped any particular year-end list for me, but they’re always right up there close. I’m not sure of the extent of being consistently, joyously awesome and hard working has rewarded the band. I can spot people at the shows seeing them for the first time, minds blown, becoming fans for life, and it has paid off in that they regularly take the top billing at the European festivals. I suppose that’ll be enough, because it doesn’t look like they’ll be filling stadiums in North America anytime soon. But those who catch them on their next small club tour will soon realize how lucky they are.

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