In this hour special first broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Pete Feenstra chats to Monster Truck guitarist Jeremy Widerman, playing tracks from the album ‘True Rockers’.
Mascot Records [Release date 14.09.18]
18 months after their breakthrough album ‘Sittin’ Heavy’, Canadian rockers Monster Truck are back with ‘True Rockers,’ an album with a built in mission to reconfirm their hard rocking credentials, while adding extra sonic colour and varied song styles to their high energy output.
And they do with a mix of anthemic stoner rock, grunge, southern rock, sub-metal, boogie and bluesy influence, on a powerful mix of riffs, some double time rhythms, booming hooks and a frenetic approach that borders on the manic.
Jon Harvey’s vocal are truly stellar, while the band’s accompanying harmony vocals remain an integral part of a portentous wall of sound.
They open with Jeremy Wilderman’s exclamatory opening yell on the thematic ‘True Rocker’ (in the singular), which sounds almost punky. It hurriedly shifts towards an 80’s hair metal chanted hook and an on-message rap from special guest Dee Snider to hammer home the fact that they are here to rock.
The kick-ass song comes perilously close to becoming a parody of their own heartfelt style. Happily, apart from the theme and unfettered energy levels it bears little relation to the rest of the album.
The following ‘Thunderstruck’ (originally slated for ‘Sittin Heavy’) features a significant Deep Purple influence with Brandon Bliss’s John Lord style organ bursts, alongside big harmonies and a piercing guitar line on an up tempo rocker.
The opening brace of die-hard rockers serve to counterbalance the more commercial feel of some of their newer songs
‘Sittin’ Heavy’ made it mark by restating the core rock principals that you need to take a leap of faith, jump off that cliff and feel the void, which is precisely what they do on track like the gut busting ‘Evolution’.
There’s an undeniable commercial and electro feel to this track, with its stuttering drum sound and processed vocals on the pre-chorus, before a catchy hook which in anyone else’s hands could have been overburdening, but they immerse Harvey’s booming vocal in a wall of sound to great effect.
There a similar straight-to-the-vein hook on ‘Young City Hearts’, as a pulsating keyboard riff melds with an anthemic line: “We are young, wild and free.” The latter could easily have come from the Rod Stewart songbook, but it’s wrenched from any semblance of complacency by a blistering drums, call and response vocals and significant bv’s.
The band revels on the exaggerated count-in of ‘Being Cool Is Over’, a high octane rocker well suited to their exuberant style.
It’s a ripping track with big drums, potent riffs, and call and response parts and has an intensity that recalls The Tubes.
The band impressively channels its huge energy surges into new areas to retain their power, freshness, and vitality.
Monster Truck will probably be judged by their diversions into a bluesier ZZ Top influenced full tilt boogie of ‘Devil Don’t Care’ with its fuzz guitar and blues harp wail. But the impressive harmonies and dual guitars give the track the kind of dynamic that made their ‘Sittin’ Heavy’ such a great album.
Then there’s also the surprisingly bluesy intro to ‘Undone’. It’s built on Neil Young style sludgy rhythm with buzz guitars and a grungy drone of a hook, backed by ever present harmony vocals over a booming bass line.
And as if to emphasize variety and accessibility there’s ‘Denim Danger’ with a sing-along intro, a big keyboard sweep and a chanted hook: “Woooh this our town, this is the place we wear the crown.”
The band impressively weaves new influences into their music, while keeping the listener focused on the riffs and undulating hooks.
They are in much more familiar territory on the raucous ‘Hurricane’, which features a primal scream on the intro of a sledgehammer rocker. Like the album as a whole, it’s predicated on the core axis of Jon Harvey’s consistently good vocals, and Steve Kiely’s powerhouse drumming, which is relentless. The two coalesce supremely as the song soars on the uplifting hook and a climactic finale with a coda.
Everything builds like a pressure cooker, before a belated resolution on the closing rock ballad ‘The Howlin’, which ultimately sweeps all in its path in a final burst of angst ridden frisson. It’s tempered by an unexpected gentle finish, which serves to remind us of everything that has gone before, and leaves the listener wanting more.
Given the fact ‘Sittin Heavy’ was their breakthrough album, ‘True Rockers’ builds on what Monster Truck have achieved so far. The album makes a statement. The focused riff driven energy, soaring melodies, big fat harmonies and booming hooks on strong material means they rock as hard as any contenders for the crown of best up and coming rock band of the moment.
Monster Truck by name, musically explosive, they duly make a big impression. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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