Later on the bill, lower on the ticket for the passerby ear but steady as all get-out as they’d aimed for the sun throughout the post-millennium Borlänge, Sweden-borne stoner rock quartet Dozer are a part of stoner rock/metal history per the European uptake, difficult as stoner music history can be to nail down in an agreed-upon sense. Many of the hottest “it” bands to inspire a whole base of folks to give it their own shot’ve been forgotten by now a la that breakfast burrito you left in the microwave this morning. This is of course potentially the reaction ‘Drifting in the Endless Void‘ might get from all but those who were around to witness the first few waves of heat that Scandinavian musicians brought to psychedelic, stoner, and doom-adjacent music of a certain era if only for the sake of the band not having picked up the name in a long while. That said we’re not here to put heads on pikes and thump chests for any old guard, stepping into this sixth record it is clear we’re getting more than two decades of experience in performance, songcraft, and a love for much more than mumbling, fuzzy yesterdays on this invigorated return.
You had to be there man, sure, but you also should’ve stuck around to get why getting new records from unheard of auteurs of the most-hidden gems of the greater Swedish stoner rock/metal uprising of the late 90’s/early 2000’s ah via Lowrider and Mammoth Volume (bring back Terra Firma, eh?) allows us a rare and valid reason to reminisce and eventually reevaluate what’d been hulking for its time and what’d ultimately held onto its appeal beyond nostalgia to this day. It’d be easy to fire up the exuberant early works from Dozer (see: ‘Coming Down the Mountain‘ mLP) and see them as imitative and perhaps overrated for the sake of the initial scarcity of musically capable likenesses to the post-Kyuss global boon in their sphere. Granted there was certainly a hungering market for that sound’s (then) uprising within the greater underground heavy rock world but Dozer were influenced by more than the greats desert-borne stoner rock for cadence, sound design, and affect perhaps more in touch with the broader minded rally of groups like (early) Monster Magnet versus the sound they are remembered for, perhaps due to catching the very tail end of Man’s Ruin‘s legacy with their first two albums. Those who know certainly haven’t forgotten what an inventive take it was as they soldiered on and where these folks brought their own vision between their genre-apropos debut ‘In the Tail of the Comet‘ (2000) and more capable, heavier ‘Madre de Dios‘ (2001). Trouble is that the personality of the band hadn’t fully shocked up as much as it eventually would and most only followed Dozer through those first two records as I believe they’d self-release their touchstone third record (‘Call it Conspiracy‘, 2003), a mind-expander where they’d worked with a big-deal garage rock producer. Anyhow, those first three records were big lessons learned that’d go on to inform a willingness to serve each song its own potential rather than gloss over the full experience with muddy sub-genre gloss.
It feels entirely necessary to emphasize that the original five LP run from Dozer between 2000-2008 was additive in terms of vocal expression from Fredrik Nordin, wherein ‘Through the Eyes of Heathens‘ (2005) notable gave us the first hint of his Chris Cornell-esque falsetto found on this new album, alongside a heavier stoner/doom metallic push when called for. I wouldn’t say that they’d ever touch upon anything particularly extreme, this was a popular heavy rock band first and foremost and they were in the business of writing memorable songs. The larger point to make when skating through the discography of the band is that the direct step many will take from ‘In the Tail of a Comet‘ to ‘Drifting in the Endless Void‘ won’t make much sense unless you’ve taken the full trip, understood where the band were at in terms of conglomerated skill and songcraft, and accounted for the years in between spent in other popular groups Greenleaf, Besvärjelsen and such. Without belaboring the point I’d say at least familiarize yourself with ‘Beyond Colossal‘ (2008) and treat it as a halfway point in terms of growth, expansion and the point Dozer reaches with this new album, what I’d consider wizened mastery. Alternately, expect a record which aims for the production values, emotional highs and lows, and slick musicianship you’d expect from Greenleaf today.
To smoke, or not to smoke. — The decision to start on a new Dozer record was, generally speaking, a matter of the right circumstances and interest. Eh, but mostly a combination of the global pandemic and a cancelled Greenleaf tour which found Nordin demoing some song ideas which the band collectively built off for a general direction to head in. It is odd to think that album closer “Missing 13” was the starting point since it is the most distant and reflective piece on the record which comes in stark contrast with where it begins, full of anthemic energy. “Mutation/Transformation” doesn’t sound like a set of musicians struggling their way back to old magick so much as it hits like a fresh set of gear, a complete bag of tricks thrown at the listener to fully enchant them with the weirding, catchy and anxious pull that ‘Drifting in the Endless Void‘ ultimately pools. Up front we’ve gotten a broader range of expression from Nordin‘s vocals, a song which pools into a handful of different modes and sensations while showcasing the intense skill of the folks involved, particularly the sole new addition to the line-up drummer Sebastian Olsson who smokes throughout this whole record. There is a very tangible sense of uncertain take-off here, or, a venture in to the unknown which makes the “legacy” era of Dozer feel a bit ancient and tame by comparison.
Many see the stoner music zeitgeist as a form built-up by musicians who’d taken to flight in (or adjacent to) the alternative rock/metal mainstream by the late 90’s, providing a gateway backwards and forwards with this breach, so, what made the difference between generation one and two? Tuning down a bit and buying a few more effects pedals? A band like Dozer always stood out for their songcraft more than their sound and this continues to ring true on ‘Drifting in the Endless Void‘ to the point of fastidious, detailed pieces which have this decidedly 90’s soar to their cadence which makes for searching, peak-era Soundgarden event as we hit upon standout single “Ex-Human, Now Beast“. At this point the quivering point of Nordin’s vocals provide an estranged, entirely distinct narrator for the first half of the album, testing my own resolve with the break in the stamping n’ rolling queue of “Dust For Blood” around ~2:43 minutes in. It was the first point of, “Eh, too much.” for my taste until I found myself drawn back to the record exactly for those sort of head-grabbing moments later on. In fact I’d set up a short review a week ago, wherein I was ready to say this one goes a touch too far out for my taste, until it’d sunken in that this was an exceptional experience from a band who’re better than they’ve ever been. Those first three songs on the album are the backbone of the album’s appeal up front, the obvious big songs to pull the listener in but this record still has places to go.
I’d go as far as to say that “No Quarter Expected, No Quarter Given” is the best song on the record as another post-‘Badmotorfinger‘ sized wailer carried through by stomping verses and an overall sense of escalation by way of refrains, again, a very specific 90’s heavy rock sort of shape which is generally lost beyond the early 2000’s. That piece paired with grungy dance in the ether-soaked fields of “Run, Mortals, Run!” constitute the most lasting pocket of interest on ‘Drifting in the Endless Void‘ per my own taste, without downplaying the high rate hooks and push of the opening trio. The full listen comes in a fading arc, gaining distance from their launch but steadily uncertain of what’ll come next at every given point of check-in. It held up extremely well to repeat listening, even if I’d hit a point of “Eh, nah.” one day and “Eh, great album.” after a few days of taking it all in along the way. They’d ultimately took me to a rare place and reminded me of their rare knack for this type of music with a record that (again) outdoes much of what they’d achieved in the past. A high recommendation.
Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:
Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.
Make a one-time donation
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly