Review Summary: Dave Wyndorf has something more cosmic in mind.
Although I’m a huge fan of Monster Magnet’s Powertrip album, Dopes to Infinity may in fact be their definitive work. If there was ever a band that could compress the space rock bombast of Hawkwind into a digestible stream and seamlessly marry it to some straight up Black Sabbath riffage, it was Monster Magnet. On Dopes to Infinity, Wyndorf and Co. effortlessly traverse the cosmos in search of the Mushroom Boy, gliding through globular clusters on the warp driven nacelles of Ed Mundell’s spiraling solos and Dave Wyndorf’s infectiously groovy riffs. This isn’t overly complex or technical music, but it has strong conceptual roots and is indicative of a band that was wonderfully interconnected musically. If you enjoyed the psychedelic cacophony of Tab 25 or the dirge like heaviness of Spine of God, you’ll find a much more immediate listen here, but one that succeeded in expanding the boundaries of what became the Monster Magnet tradition. Jump into the void with the Church of Wyndorf, space rock awaits.
Heavy ambiance precedes the titanic riff that introduces “Dopes to Infinity,” a track that bristles with Sabbath like energy and simplicity, but indeed has much more going for it. Wyndorf’s vocal delivery sounds like a cosmic declaration of sorts, the earnestness of his vocal setting the stage perfectly for Mundell’s energetic but still measured guitar soloing. The moderate rock radio hit “Negasonic Teenage Warhead” follows, and while it is accessible, sacrifices nothing of the album’s space rock framework. Wyndorf shouts a massively catchy chorus behind a mammoth riff that Mundell later tears apart with a freak out solo at song’s conclusion, the climax of it all feeling comparable to the galactic mayhem that comes with stellar evolution. When our sun is in the throes of death and evolves into a red giant, this album will be the soundtrack.
“Look to Your Orb for the Warning” expands upon the formula of the title track, but with an even more crushing riff leading it out of the gates. There is a thick distortion lathered over the riff, but it still sounds incredibly clear and crisp. Especially if you’re listening with headphones, you’ll hear the din of all sorts of sounds on this track, those being the crunchy lead riff, Wyndorf vocal chants, a pounding drum beat, and layers of guitar effects and overdubs. It may sound messy at first, but the closer you listen, the more clearly the intricate structure of these tunes will reveal themselves. You’ll see the great care that Monster Magnet have taken to align their space rock excursions with the natural genius and structure of nature, and although powerless amongst the cosmic forces of reality, you’ll be waiting for the spaceship to take you away as well. As you spiral forward and your senses open in a wall of Technicolor, the guttural space rock assault of “I Control, I Fly” will integrate itself into the deepest nodes of your consciousness. You will escape the backwaters of the Carina-Cygnus spiral arm and emerge on the far side of the galaxy, looking through the eyes of Wyndorf.
Over the course of the album, the expansively metallic atmosphere of Monster Magnet’s vision continues to unfold. Cuts like “King of Mars” and “Third Alternative” are great slabs of psych drenched riff rock, while “Theme from Masterburner” is a truly exploratory instrumental track in its own right, alternating between a dreamy lead guitar melody and pounding riff sections. “All Friends and Kingdom Come,” “Dead Christmas,” and “Blow Em Off” rely less on overwhelming amplification and more on some really inventive bass work, adding new atmospheric textures to what is a very metallically inclined album. Just as “Theme from Masterburner” chaotically ends, a new element of fuzz is introduced in the seriously tripped out album closer “Vertigo,” a tune that brings to mind the brain bending dimension shift undergone by David Bowman at the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s landmark science fiction novel, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Awesome.
If Carl Sagan was ever into stoner rock, I bet Dopes to Infinity would be one of his favorite albums. He’d laud it for its respect of structure, but also for its sonic imagination. Monster Magnet was an enterprising band, looking to the progenitors of heavy metal and hard rock for inspiration (just as Sagan admired the aspiring scientists of antiquity and the Enlightenment era) while expanding on their example by reaching towards new cosmic possibilities. Dave Wyndorf and Ed Mundell are the ambassadors here, the metallic cohesion they find in these tracks being wonderfully invigorating.
If we ever send another Voyager Golden Record across the light years, let’s send Dopes to Infinity.