Sometimes clichés don’t have to be a problem. And when a Stoner Rock band releases an album called “Hellroad Caravan” and the album’s second song is called “Fuzzmaster” the initial feeling is already good. And indeed I’m not disappointed, although you could expect anything seeing the band and members’ history. For one, MANNHAI is now fronted, for the first time, by Pasi Koskinen, who indeed is the former AMORPHIS frontman; that’s not exactly Stoner Rock for you, no? On top of that this is the band’s 4th release already, with the former, to me unfamiliar, three albums apparently being in a very different style.
But like I said, no disappointments whatsoever as “Hellroad Caravan” rocks and rocks. And whilst their sound is influenced by the usual suspects for a Stoner band MANNHAI still know how to surprise at times. Like with exquisitely ferocious opening of “Shellshock” or the minimal Folk rhythms in the riffs of “Better Hate Yesterday” (Think of how SABBATH innovated mid-70s). Or the Hammond in “Hall Of Dead” for the real 70s experience.
Most of the album is pretty up-tempo but “Back In Red” shows MANNHAI playing a tad slower which results in a darker sound also achieved by the KYUSS-like desert melodies. They don’t have the fuzz of aforementioned legends, but get close enough in the faster rockers. Groove then is of course an ubiquitous elements for a Stoner band and besides having a more then solid foundation with the riffing MANNHAI has a great rhythm section with the drums incorporating the , much preferred by me, crashing ride cymbals.
The only thing the album could use a bit more perhaps is awesome solos as those found on “Rock In A Cradle (Detroit)” and “Downer”, it would just give the album an ever more positive nudge. If you’re a Stoner Rock fan, you’ve got no excuse not to buy MANNHAI’s fourth; and if you want to venture into the world of fuzzy desert music, perhaps with an overall FU MANCHU character, ‘Hellroad Caravan” is as good an album to start with as you will find. (Online July 31, 2006)