In the mid-ninety’s things were happening in California. Desert rock was being born and for my money Kyuss and Fu Manchu were the standard bearers of the genre. Deeply heavy guitar driven music with thundering bass and drums, Kyuss delivered a trilogy of albums that still hold up today. Around the same time Fu Manchu were hitting their stride and delivered In Search Of, which is the pick of their early releases and perhaps even their strongest album of all.
Volume, fuzz and power were these bands consistent elements and just like Nirvana a few years before, the Desert rock movement inspired many to follow, thoughsome of those came from less sunnier climates. In the year 2000 Swedish band Lowrider delivered ‘Ode To Io’ and to now this has remained their only full album. Why this is remains a mystery as it too had volume, fuzz and power along with a stack of great songs. It received great reviews at the time and word of mouth amongst the rock fraternity rated it highly. A remastered version of ‘Io’ was released in recent years and managed to sound even better. Live appearances followed at Desertfest and it was clear that their fan base was still there and clamouring for new product.
‘Refractions’ has now arrived and with more shows in the pipeline, it would appear that Lowrider are well and truly back.
‘Red River’ opens the new album and within 20 seconds the speakers are experiencing severe pain. They sound no different and that is meant as a compliment – as with the original album, this is music that benefits from increased volume. Turn this one up and experience a wall of noise like no other. It pauses for breath a third of the way through before picking up speed again as they gain a second wind. Andreas Eriksson on drums and Peder Bergstrand on bass show their teeth are still sharp as they underpin the song to give guitarists Niclas Stalfors and Ola Hellquist space to riff away.
‘Ode To Ganymede’ starts with tribal drumming before Hellquist joins in with a Queens Of The Stone Age style riff. Bassist Bergstrand also handles lead vocals and just like before, these are a little buried in the mix but they are almost secondary to what is going on around, so this is no bad thing. The song goes into a lengthy instrumental passage at the midpoint including the addition of some ‘Child In Time’ organ that is perfect for the song.
‘Sernanders Krog’ opens up with a guitar that sounds like The Edge on acid. The drums and bass kick in and we’re off on a Kyuss inspired roller coaster ride is as good as anything they have done and musically it wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Blues For The Red Sun’. It stretches to over 8 minutes and features another instrumental work out mid song that features all of the band before the guitars take us through to the end.
There is no time to take a breath before ‘Ol Mule Pepe’ crashes in. It almost seemed as though I’d turned this one up as it’s naturally loud. Very close in feel to much of the ‘Io’ material, it’s another one that hands over the reins to the music only all the way through to the end.
‘Sun Devil/M87*’ is the penultimate track and is an outright lack of singing and it’s near 5 minute duration passes in a flash – if an instrumental can finish before it outstays it’s welcome then I reckon they have nailed it.
‘Pipe Rider’ is the last song and also the longest one here, clocking in over the 11 minute mark. More tribal drumming starts it off before the rest of the band join in and by the time the vocals start were at full volume. It reminds me in parts of a Steven Wilson type number, though one played very loudly. The song has the best and most prominent vocal performance of the whole set and the overall length of the song allows the guitar solo to stretch out over the rolling bass playing. This is the perfect song with which to close the album as it shows Lowrider at their very best. For my money it just nudges past ‘Sernanders Krog’ as the best of the set but it’s a close run thing.
‘Refractions’ is one of those records that is so powerful and loud that when it ends, the silence in the room is itself deafening and there is a palpable disappointment that it’s over. Still there is an easy remedy, just press play again.
The album is every bit as good as the seminal ‘Ode To Io’ and at this point that is all the fans will care about. For anyone new to the band, they can look forward to exploring one of the heaviest rock album I’ve heard in years. ‘Refractions’ is out now and Lowrider play Desertfest in London this spring.