posted on 2/2008 By:
So my Metal Review cherry is popped with my first review, which is the new Monster Magnet album 4-Way Diablo. It follows up 2004's Monolithic Baby! and is very much a similar album. Unfortunately, this means the album is in no way vital within the span of the band's catalog and suffers from the same weaknesses that have plagued the band since 1996's super-produced Powertrip. First to note, is that not unlike Monolithic Baby (which featured a very true to form cover of David Gilmour's "There's No Way Out of Here") the best song on the album is a cover. The good news is that it's a cover of one of my most favorite Rolling Stone songs ("2000 Lightyears from Home"). The bad news is that the best song on this album is a cover, yet what makes 4-Way a 2-D album is not in the songcrafting, but the wimpy production.
The early Monster Magnet catalog is weighted on heavily fuzzy and genuinely retro sounding production. Many bands from Electric Wizard to Queens of the Stone Age to Wolfmother have utilized the 2" analog tape to its optimal retro glory, and to their favor. This is where 4-Way, and its three predecessors have misfired. 4-Way Diablo has an almost obnoxiously slick production that would render the fastest and most technical math metal band audible, clearly, in every channel. What this does is rob the music, as uneven as it is already, of what made this same band stand out from the pack in the early 90s. The stronger and more genuine songs on the album like "Cyclone", "I'm Calling You", and "Solid Gold", are solid amongst the band's overall career. But the lack of that certain psychedelic haze present on previous releases is absent and this is prominent to anyone who regularly fails the "pee in cup" test. Other, "heavier" tracks like "Wall of Fire" and "Slap in the Face", have a solid crunch and good fast tempo, and benefit from the production. On the other hand, I could be listening to Motorhead if that's the mood I want.
I should also note that Monster Magnet's early catalog is essential to any listener of stoner rock. As vital as Trouble. Before Queens of the Stone Age and Wolfmother ruled the roost of 70s retro in modern times, Monster Magnet were the heavyweight champs. Their first EP and three full length releases (...tab ('91), Spine of God ('91), Superjudge ('93), Dopes to Infinity ('95) respectively) are some very honest and true stoner rock records that I would recommend to anyone remotely interested in the genre and suggest to anyone who has never heard. Hence, my admiration for the band to an extent.
Again, the Rolling Stones cover is really (REALLY) good and Dave Wyndorf's vocals sound as good as ever, but what made this band great ten years ago has left the building. The production is too slick. While this does allow clarity amongst the instrumentation (the current line up of MM is undeniably talented, check out the solo on "Cyclone") it makes this more of a gym album than a bong album and that is why 4-Way Diablo is yet another misfire from a band that used to reign the living room of this stoner. Cherry popped.
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