Formed in the mid-’90s in the sleepy town of Borlänge, Swedish foursome DOZER spearheaded the first wave of European-style stoner/desert rock, an impactful fusion of proto-metal, riff-rock and punk that blasted forth in response to the tectonic heft and sun-baked fuzz of American bands Kyuss and Fu Manchu.
Now, more than a decade since their last outing, Dozer return with an impassioned, amp-splitting rumble of a record that will righteously invigorate a scene and style that’s more vital than ever, and which they themselves were instrumental in helping launch.
On their preternaturally confident earliest releases, which included albums In the Tail of the Comet and Madre De Dios on the legendary Man’s Ruin label and a split LP with John Garcia’s short-lived yet bright-burning outfit Unida, the fuzz-rock hypnosis was at cosmic levels, thanks to guitarist Tommi Holappa’s rolling riffs and fried psychedelics and singer/guitarist Fredrik Nordin’s blistering vocal power.
Third album Call it Conspiracy was a milestone in perfectly crafted high-energy anthems, as the lockdown grooves of rhythm section Johan Rockner (bass) and Erik Bäckwall (drums) along with heaping helpings of ‘70s hard rock heroics saw the band establish themselves as a live force, leveling audiences across the UK and Europe with their white hot eruptions.
Even as Dozer achieved greater recognition on European, US and Australian tours supporting the likes of Clutch, Spiritual Beggars and Mastodon, Holappa also started side project Greenleaf as an outlet for jammier, less-structured digressions.
An inflection point came with Dozer’s fourth album Through the Eyes of Heathens, which saw them drive the intensity into the red and push the tempos to match. Their fuzz-groove attack now infused with heightened aggression and crush, the shift was consecrated by the appearance of Mastodon’s Troy Saunders lending vocals to the song “Until Man Exists No More.”
Dozer pushed ahead in this vein with 2008’s Beyond Colossal, which All Music called, “arguably their heaviest and darkest song cycle yet,” and which included a career watermark in the form of mini-epic “Empire’s End” featuring guest vocals from Neil Fallon of Clutch.
But, although the album was a triumph in channeling the various tributaries of the members’ decade-plus growth and influences, it would also be their last proper album for quite some time. Nordin returned to school to earn his Master’s degree, Holappa turned Greenleaf into a full-time band, and Dozer went on indefinite hiatus.
If the band seemed to sleep while Greenleaf roamed, Dozer has now reawakened with a vengeance. With the reactivation of live activities and a new home on the impeccable roster of Blues Funeral Recordings, Dozer’s new album Drifting in the Endless Void is an undeniable affirmation of their status not just as forefathers of a movement, but as champions of volcanic energy and pure riff worship.
Drifting in the Endless Void is packed to the rafters with dense instrumentation, arena-ready melodies, and contemplative restraint. Dozer still brings the tumultuous churn that longtime fans expect, but their sound has become a gravitational mass that also pulls in massive sludge, fuzzed-out doom, space-tripping grooves, red-eyed psychedelics, and whatever else they find floating in the vast cosmic expanse.
Although mined from from the same bedrock as Beyond Colossal, Drifting in the Endless Void is awash in surprising dynamics. When Holappa and Nordin lock into a tandem riff, they whip up unstoppable, pummeling storms of perfect rock and roll. Nordin’s vocals wail, whisper and roar, leaping from haunting falsettos to guttural rage to wide panoscopic hooks. With the addition of drummer Sebastian Olsson (also of Greenleaf), the moody and atmospheric elements crackle with taut electricity, and the breakdowns thunder with renewed ferocity. Rockner’s bass carves massive grooves for the band to swing through, and Holappa’s leads are as supple, melodic and infectious as ever.
Across the record’s seven songs, Dozer moves seamlessly from furious whirlwinds to spaced-out dirge, from deceptive simplicity to polyrhythmic complexity, and from pastoral prog to immense yet catchy modern metal.
Dozer’s return to the musical landscape they helped shape is cause enough for celebration, but the explosive playing and fiery purpose is what makes Drifting in the Endless Void a truly unmissable experience. With age and time come wisdom and pain, and you can hear both screaming through in the grit and determination of every rough-hewn riff and tumbling fill. Dozer continues to sketch a desert that is entirely their own, and we are lucky to walk in their wake.
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