Review Summary: A true triumph for Wyndorf and Co. You get the classic elements of Monster Mag delivered with a straighter edge.
Dave Wyndorf- Vocals and Guitar
Ed Mundell- Lead Guitar
Joe Calandra- Bass
Jon Kleiman: Drums
What is there to say about Monster Magnet? Among the stoner rock faithful, Wyndorf and Co. represent one of the purest strains of the legitimate mid to late 90's stoner rock movement. Along with Kyuss, Monster Mag brought stoner rock into the mainstream to a degree, mostly thanks to the release of Powertrip. Prior to that, the band released such classics as Spine of God, 25...Tab, the overlooked Superjudge, and Dopes to Infinity. All those releases established Monster Mag as a true titan of artistic expression within stoner rock. They had the heaviness, the stoner themes, but most importantly, the pure rock power. This leads to Powertrip, which establishes a movement by Wyndorf and Co. to maintain their vital elements while emphasizing a more straightforward, metallic charge to their delivery.
If the ratings on Sputnik indicate anything, Powertrip is the bridge between two eras for Monster Mag. The first era is the most acclaimed one, with Monster Mag putting their mark on the stoner rock scene with the aforementioned albums. The band seemed to have a signature sound but it still evolved throughout that time period. You have the fuzzy, dirgy heaviness of Spine of God, the epic space freakout of 25...Tab, and the metallic but still spacey Dopes to Infinity. After Powertrip, the stripped down approach becomes much more apparent, and some longtime fans were not pleased. The albums still sounded like Monster Mag, but there is no denying that Powertrip was a pinnacle in many ways.
The album begins with "Crop Circle," a track that slowly builds up to a simple riff. Once the distortion comes in, you can immediately sense you're in for a more guttural approach from Monster Mag. Dave Wyndorf and Ed Mundell combine to create some heavy but groovy riffing and some great solo work. Wyndorf yells at all the right times and really stresses what some may dub his "nonsensical" lyrics. With Monster Mag, if you throw prejudice to the wind and embrace the subtle meanings behind Wyndorf's words, you can really learn to rock out while singing lyrics like "I was born underwater, I dried out in the sun. I started humping volcanoes baby, when I was too young.” The band finishes off and transitions to “Power Trip”, which begins with a speedy riff before ripping into a more distorted, thrashier version of the main riff. Wyndorf sings anthemic verses and choruses, which pull the listener into the bizarre worlds that Wyndorf has such a knack for creating. The band allows room for some great breakdowns in which lead guitarist Ed Mundell can show off his soloing prowess. As one the premier lead guitarists in stoner rock, Ed Mundell is allowed room to stretch his legs on the more straightforward rocking songs, whereas he opts for a more subtle approach on some of the more spacey, atmospheric tracks.
The band vaults into Monster Mag's biggest single, "Spacelord." The massively catchy acoustic riff in this song provided for its impetus on rock radio. Even so, the original Monster Mag vibe is still intact as Wyndorf once again shouts out anthemic choruses behind heavily distorted guitars. The song fades out with its catchy chorus repeating and Mundell getting in even more solo flare. Some may hear remnants of "Tab…25" (the song) in the closing of "Spacelord", as some of Monster Mag's earliest space rock excursions are on display. The heavily anthemic first three tracks set the stage for the straight-ahead rocker "Temple of your Dreams", which has a hugely simple riff but with enough fuzz to please any stoner rock fan. A catchy bass line clamps it all down and Wyndorf alternates eerie verses with even more fist pumping choruses. The song closes and in comes "Bummer," which rolls in with a HUGE drum line followed by an even more massive riff. Wyndorf roars with with an almost judge like tone as he shouts out lyrics like "You're looking for the one who fu**ed your mom. It's not me." Awesome.
The distorted assault thus far leads nicely into the dreamy, trippy "Baby Gotterdammerung." Wyndorf engages in some spoken word behind an extremely hypnotic riff. The tension continues to build with great guitar effects and melodic leads. Wyndorf inquires his followers with lines like "What would Modok do, if his memory got too full? He'd find the power source, and pick what plugs to pull." You will find yourself increasingly engaged with Wyndorf's lyrical tales thanks to the hypnotic nature of the background music. The band shows an impressive ability to pull back after the full on rock assault of the first four tracks and concentrate on atmosphere and effect.
This is when the diversity of the album begins to reveal itself even more. Thus far, Monster Mag has shown a true pension for creating a hypnotically heavy sound coupled with strangely addicting choruses. They've infused some of their space rock influence throughout the beginning half of the album and have also shown a knack for creating their own brand of ambiance. On "19 Witches," the band successfully combines the two forces by creating a heavy rocker that has the vibe of something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. The band returns to more psychedelic drenched riff rock with "3rd Eye Landslide." The band alternates eerily played verses with full on assaults on the choruses. Ed Mundell returns to center stage by showing off his trademark lead sound while Wyndorf screeches and shouts at all the right moments.
"See You in Hell" is another spooky, trippy track but still utilizes Wyndorf's impressive range of vocal abilities. He can shriek or shout with power as well as sing in a clean, melodic tone. Keyboards, or perhaps organs, are utilized in this track and are done impressively. Wyndorf and Mundell bring out huge amounts of fuzz in this as well, but not quite with the metallic edge of earlier tracks. It is these small differences that make up the diversity of the album. There's a real undertaking here, with Monster Mag exploring a more conventional songwriting approach without sacrificing their space rock heritage. Huge riffs, fuzz tones, Wyndorf shouts, and seemingly outlandish lyrics are still the name of the game. The band decides to rein in the drugged out excursions of the past (25...Tab) and focus all that stoner rock nuance into shorter blasts of energy. It is done to GREAT effect.
"Tractor" brings the album back to a blistering level. With another massive, fuzzed out riff, Monster Mag jumps right back into pure rock territory. "Atomic Clock" slows down the tempo a bit and Wyndorf graces us with more engaging lyrical stories. "Goliath and the Vampires" produces more ominous, spooky tones. "Your Lies Become You" closes the album and the band opts for a swampier atmosphere. Think of drifting through the damp marshes of the Everglades while listening to this track.
The strength of Powertrip lies in the band's conscious attempt to retain the psychedelic and space rock influences of earlier releases while melding them into a more concise rock package. This is no small feat, as the band could have easily overemphasized one direction over the other. They find the perfect balance and the result is this stellar, diverse set. Monster Mag would continue to streamline even more in the future (with varying degrees of success to some) but this album represents the best of both worlds. Your average hard rock fan will find this disc just as pleasing as your most veteran stoner rock fan, and for good reason. That alone makes it an essential album.
Prepare yourself for the Monster Mag experience. Hail the Church of Wyndorf!