Stoner Rock's Best Kept Secret

Sweden's Truckfighters have more in common with the Melvins than ABBA

It's a long stretch of land and sea between the icy forests of Sweden and the hot, dusty deserts of Southern California, but don't tell Truckfighters that.

Truckfighters, named after a 1970s action-packed book series, are a heavy three-piece band from Örebro, Sweden. They fit snugly in that catch-all classification that's associated with most bands that have heavy, meaty riffs, melodic vocals and powerhouse drumming: stoner rock. It's a category of music that's been bandied about from everybody to Kyuss to the Melvins to Fu Manchu to Blue Cheer. Stoner rock is largely associated with the Palm Desert scene, a tight conclave of bands near Palm Springs, Calif., that plays heavy metal laced with elements of blues, hardcore and psychedelica and is fueled by an obscene amount of marijuana intake. You may be familiar with the Palm Desert's favorite sons, Queens of the Stone Age.

Truckfighters formed more than a decade ago, when Niklas "Mr. Dango" Källgren (guitar) and Oskar "Mr. Ozo" Cedermalm (bass and vocals) met up to play some riffs together in the studio. At the time, Mr. Ozo was performing in the band Greenleaf, and Mr. Dango was sitting in the producer's chair.

"We started in 2001, mainly because we wanted a fun project," Mr. Dango says. "Then I heard what Ozo had written and I was like, 'This shit is really good; it's better than your other band!' We decided to start a band for real."

With the addition of Mr. Paco on drums, Truckfighters released the Desert Cruiser EP later that year and toured extensively throughout Europe. 2003 saw the release of their first proper album, Fuzzsplit of the Century, a split-album with fellow stoner Swedes Firestone. You can hear the monolithic Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin influences clearly throughout, but there's also a splattering of raw, unhinged ferocity that brings to mind one of the best garage/punk rock bands of the 1990s, Sweden's the Hellacopters.

The Hellacopters, like Truckfighters, are a bit of an anomaly in Sweden. If you were to throw darts at a list of Swedish rock bands, chances are you'd strike doom-heavy and mostly humorless bands like Opeth, In Flames and Amon Amarth. Still, Mr. Dango assures us there's a metal scene below the dark brook of Swedish black metal's many rivers, albeit a little hard to navigate.

"The Hellacopters, for example, are legends in Sweden but they stopped playing a few years back. We have lots of metal and bands coming from Sweden," Mr. Dango says. "Lots and lots of people and kids are playing music and the metal scene is really good. On the other side of the coin, it's not that good because not that many people actually go out and see underground shows."

In 2005 the band released the album Gravity X on Fuzzorama Records in Europe, and on the MeteorCity record label here in the U.S. Tracks like "Gweedo-Weedo," "A. Zapruder" and "Gargarismo" are crunchy and absolutely shimmering with what feels like desert-haze sunlight on their guitar strings. It's hard to believe these were recorded in a studio that you can ski to. Their follow-album, Phi, was released in 2007 on Poison Tree Records, and it garnered favorable attention from some of stoner rock's heaviest hitters. Comparisons to the genre's pioneers, Kyuss, came flooding in after the 2009 release, Mania, and a European tour with America's galloping Valient Thorr and headliners Fu Manchu commenced shortly afterward.

2011 was a good year for Truckfighters. A self-titled documentary on the band was released to critical acclaim. Not your standard rock doc, Truckfighters showcases the band through their day-to-day life using animation, re-enactments and hilarious usages of mise-en-scène. There's also a look at their This Is Spinal Tap-like penchant for going through drummers (the band has gone through five so far), and a copious amount of footage of their sweaty, blistering live shows. In the documentary, there are plenty of testimonials from various stoner-rock band members, but one stands above the rest. Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme declares Truckfighters "the best band that's ever existed." It's a quote that gave Truckfighters more than a few new fans.

"No matter what you think about it or how you see it, it's a fact when a famous person says something, a lot of people would like to listen," Mr. Dango says. "I think the fact that Josh Homme is in the trailer and in the movie for three seconds (laughs), I think it makes a lot of people in the mainstream who don't normally know how to find little-known artists ... it opens their eyes and they may want to check them out."

That same year, Truckfighters embarked on their first American tour, opening up for Queens of the Stone Age on a jaunt along the East Coast. This year they're on their first proper tour throughout the country, and for the first time they're heading west. They have a new drummer, Mr. Poncho, and they're touring behind an upcoming EP entitled The Chairman, due out in October, which Mr. Dango assures will be pleasing to Truckfighters fans.

"If you've listened to us before and you know how we sound, I would say it's like another step in the Truckfighters evolution," Mr. Dango says. "It's melodic and progressive, and really groovy. It seems it's more of everything we do, somehow. It's really good!"

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