Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fuzzorama Records Label Feature: 2016 Releases!

Swedish label Fuzzorama Records has been around since 2003 but you're forgiven if you've never heard of it. I have to forgive my myself as I've only been aware of their rock solid catalog for a few years now. That seems kind of impossible since the label is owned and run by none other than Truckfighters! How was I not on board in 2003?

As one would expect the Fuzzo roster is loaded with bands that share some (read: a lot) of stylistic similarities with the riff generators running the show. 2016 only saw three releases on the label (plus a live Truckfighters album) but quality over quantity wins every time. When you're done checking out the three releases featured below dig a little deeper starting with We Hunt Buffalo and Deville. Solid, solid stuff.

Hail the fuzz!

Valley of the Sun – Volume Rock

I've talked about this release before but in the intervening months nothing has changed. Volume Rock is still the perfect title for the album as it a) does totally rock and b) needs to be cranked to 11. It's an inoffensive, groove laden bitch of an album. Apparently this Cincinnati product has been around for a while (2010) but I'm just hearing about them now. Shame.

They couldn't be a more perfect fit for the label. They've got all the Fuzzo touchstones that are expected; riffs, groove, tone and that intoxicated/intoxicating vibe. There are no frills. Just straight up rockin'. There's dynamics though. Their movements from big sky openness to heavy-handed throwdowns are fluid and clean. Speaking of clean, that's how the vocals are.

Not just clean though. Ryan Ferrier has range! The kind of range that recalls vintage-era Chris Cornell. In fact, fans of Soundgarden's older (pre-Superunknown) material shouldn't find anything to complain about here.

Valley of the Sun have a real sense of drive. Their ample energy and sweet solos push and pull at the listener in equal measure. It's a weird sense in that you want to remain in place and take it in but it compels you to move. Not just the constant head nod/bang and toe taps. But move toward some sort of transportation and let the tunes rip as you cruise down an empty highway with the vocals moving you in a different way on tracks like “Speaketh” and “Land of Fools”.

Valley of the Sun and Volume Rock aren't doing anything new or innovative but that's really okay. If you just want to listen to fuzzed out riffs, bone-shaking bass and purposeful percussion, and not get screamed at, you don't need anything other than this. Just give this baby all the volume you've got and set your spirit free!

Truckfighters – V

V is, you guessed it, the fifth album from riffsters Truckfighters. Releasing your own band's albums give the boys a freedom to do whatever the hell they want (even though V is sub-licensed on Century Media, which is likely the reason it's not on bandcamp) and for this one Truckfighters have ventured off the path a little. You're still going to get a bevy of riffs and a warm, fuzzy tone that's just dialed right in, man. But this album feels and sounds a little more mature. This different approach has been met with some negativity and that's not without warrant. But that's typical of any band that evolves really. Also, sources must be considered. ie. YouTube comments for one.

Where V differs from the norm is in how they have stretched things out. At seven songs over 47 minutes that put the average song length at almost 7 minutes. A little long for stoner rock, eh? Well, Truckfighters have added some prog into the mix. Sections that feel more jammed out work into the structure, lengthening the tracks. Plus there's some straight up slow, pretty parts (“Storyline”). Sure, it's a different energy and depending on mood it could drag you down but you can't expect the same thing every album. I read once that Josh Homme loves these guys and look how diverse his career is.

If you listen close you'll hear the progressive influences, especially in the bass. “Hawkshaw” in particular features a bass line walking along a trail blazed by Tool. It's pretty great. You could follow that with some comparisons to Anciients in how they incorporate prog elements while still nailing tone. When Truckfighters aren't laying back they've still got ample crunch. And those riffs! No matter how you feel about V you can't fault the plethora of riffs coming at you.

Tone, riffs and groove are what we've come to expect from the Swedes, but this time they fleshed the plan out giving it more substance, and a maturity that some people (not just YouTube trolls) apparently aren't ready for. I'll admit at times my attention wandered (more than usual) but then Truckfighters will come in with some bangin' riffs to bring me right back. You just have to be patient and remember, they can only make Gravity X once.

Asteroid – III

Asteroid is another band who have been around a while but have just made their way to my ears. And truth be told, sitting down to write this is perhaps the first time I've listened to III sober. It's a stoner rock album after all! Or heavy psych. Pick your descriptor. Either way if you haven't already separated yourself from reality, III might just do it for you.

Listening clear headed does nothing to harsh the mellow or bring you down from the inevitable high Asteroid provide. It's the same sort of feeling you get from older Witchcraft or (a long lost favourite) Mammoth Volume. Everything just unrolls in its own good time spreading grooves and a raw, vintage tone far and wide. Not that they can't amp it up a little but for the most part they're content to soothe rather than slam. But that rollicking riff on “Wolf & Snake” mated to the soulful solo? Hot damn! That's fire, man!

That's a good track to highlight the dynamics on III though. After that high energy passage it gets low and slow, burning with a dirty tone and doomy riff. Contrast the earthly and sub-earthly facets against the heavenly heights Asteroid can reach with delightful melody, spacey atmosphere and soaring vocals and you've got one killer stoner rock album that begs repeat listens.

III captures a retro sensibility as well. Other than production value (Which is aces in this case.) you could drop this into 1972 and no one would bat an eyelash. Ok, “Them Calling” might blow some minds. The low end tone of this is incredible which enhances the bluesy, Sabbathian riffs. It's a balanced heavy and the chorus feels empowering and would be particularly endearing to fans of The Sword (pre-High Country).

III gets better with every spin. It's addicting and oh, so smooth. It grooves at all the right times, rocks when it has to and trips with every smoked-out second that hazily rolls by. This was easily one of the best stoner albums of 2016. Break out the bell bottoms and get those Coven and Wicked Lady records on standby.

There you have it, the 2016 Fuzzorama Records releases all in one handy place! Rock on!