Review Summary: A great effort from Truckfighters but it's sounding a bit thin without that second guitar.
Truckfighters is one of those unfortunate bands that is doomed to go through constant and destructive line-up changes, dropping members like flies. Since 2008, Truckfighters has gone through two drummers and a guitarist. Their second drummer left due to an injury and was replaced by their original member who left again very shortly after. The second guitarist Fredo abandoned ship in early 2008 and Truckfighters wall of guitar sound was greatly diminished as a result. Mania is Truckfighter's third studio album and although it is still a great effort by the band (which is now only Ozo and Dango), the lack of a second guitar is quite noticeable.
Truckfighters’ signature sound consists of a distinct blend of fuzz and hard rock that generates a wall-like guitar sound that hits hard but is oddly relaxing and laid back. Unfortunately, Truckfighters had to ditch their wall of sound, and focus the remaining guitar on creating a more atmospheric sound. No longer is Truckfighters creating music that is saturated in dual fuzz-drowned guitar sound, what they have now is a smooth hard rock sound that doesn't pack as much of a punch. However, the loss of the second guitar wasn't all bad because it resulted in a niche being opened for the bass which was mostly over-shadowed on past albums. This newfound duality has resulted in some seriously sick songs such as "The New High" which is without question the most sinister song I have ever heard from Truckfighters. The bass is immensely gritty, growling out from behind the throaty drop-tuned lead guitar. As a whole, the band's sound seems to be getting progressively more aggressive and violent in nature and it becomes visible throughout the album.
Vocally, Mania isn't anything out of the ordinary for Truckfighters, and nothing that Truckfighters' fans haven't heard before on the past two albums. Ozo does seem to be getting more aggressive in a few songs but this is counter-acted by the more laid back tracks on the album such as "Last Curfew."
Although the loss of the second guitar had a somewhat adverse effect on Truckfighters' sound, I believe that as a band they are progressing quite noticeably. Mania isn't much longer than Phi, but there are only 8 songs here and there were 10 tracks on Phi. This means that Truckfighters is creating lengthier tracks and heading for a progressive sound which is made apparent by the weird unnatural introduction to Majestic. Truckfighters seems to be shifting away from ultra-dense stoner metal, and getting closer to much more marketable progressive rock with strong psychedelic influence. This is not to say that Truckfighters is the new Mars Volta, but they seem to be more interested in generating their own sound rather than impersonating Fu Manchu's hard n heavy style.
Although I didn't find Mania to be as enjoyable as Phi, it's still a great album from the best stoner metal act around, hands down.