Genre fans will no doubt remember Monster Magnet for their memorable musical contributions to films like The Matrix, Urban Legend, Beowulf and Bride of Chucky, but this New Jersey-based unit is also one of the prime movers in the “stoner rock” movement – and nearly a quarter-century after their formation, the band's influence on hard rock and metal can still be heard from up-and-coming artists today. Conversely, much of Monster Magnet's own creative spark comes from the world of horror and science fiction, and they cite grindhouse cinema, classic sci-fi novels, comic books and the beloved B-movies of Roger Corman among their inspirations. Just one look at the supreme retro-style promotional art for their tenth album Last Patrol reveals this dedication... you can totally imagine this poster on display beneath a 42nd Street grindhouse marquee, say around 1981 or so:
Last Patrol is also a callback to the band's psychedelic rock roots, according to MM's founder and frontman Dave Wyndorf: “The songs are a kind of Space-Noir,” he explains, “tales of cosmic revenge, peaking libidos, alienation and epic strangeness. It’s a weird trip through the back alleys of a dark, retro-future, which not by coincidence very much resembles my own life.” Although the lyrical imagery seems to spring from the pages of a vintage pulp novel, the songs on Last Patrol also represent a personal reflection for Wyndorf, who set out to capture his emotional state during a week-long marathon writing session. There's also a distinctly old-school sonic vibe to this record, thanks in large part to Dave's decision (along with co-producer Phil Caivano) to employ mostly vintage instruments and recording equipment. The result is a literal blast from the past, combining sweeping space-rock nostalgia with a spooky, retro-futuristic theme.
While it's not as consistently heavy as their classic releases like Powertrip or Dopes to Infinity (my personal fave among their early material), Patrol benefits from an expansive, cinematic sound, while still retaining the organic textures of a live recording... and there are still plenty of ground-shaking moments to remind you just how heavy Wyndorf and company can bring it, with hearty helpings of thick, satisfying riffs. The album kicks off with the ominous, deathly-dark chords of "I Live Behind the Clouds," forming a minimalist background for Wyndorf's resonant melodic vocals before expanding the canvas in the hypnotic title track, which recalls the potent melodic psychedelia that the band pioneered on their first record Spine of God. They follow up with a suitably spacey cover of "Three Kingfishers" by '60s folk-rock icon Donovan, which fits the old-school Monster Magnet dynamic like a glove.
While those tracks tend to favor majestic harmonies and thick, enveloping layers of sound, there's still plenty of heaviness to be heard: the high-energy cut "Mindless Ones" was a wise choice for the album's leading single, with its consistent intensity, faster tempo and crushing riffage (as demonstrated in the energized music video below), while the band opts for a gritty garage-rock approach to "Hallelujah" and a tight, bluesy groove on “The Duke (of Supernature).” But they truly go for broke in the ultra-heavy "End of Time," which serves as the record's musical climax, before the chillier coda "Stay Tuned” – the title of which is presumably a reassurance to fans that Wyndorf and company still have more cosmic realms to explore.
Last Patrol is a solid synthesis of the elements that Monster Magnet refined back in the early '90s and their more mainstream, modern metal sound – and the two styles meet in the middle without sacrificing energy or musical bite. While it doesn't break much new creative ground, it's an effective fusion of everything this band does best (with Wyndorf's vocals in particularly fine form), and their more overt embracing of dark cosmic themes helps to accentuate their musical strengths.
Monster Magnet are about to embark on their first North American tour in over ten years, hitting nearly two dozen venues beginning on November 14th, so be sure to visit their official site for the list of venues and ticket info... but first, crank the video for “Mindless Ones” below!