When you think of a typical Swedish landscape, the desert probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind. But with bands like Truckfighters, Monolord, and Graveyard, Sweden has been fertile grounds for all things desert rock. Lowrider are also an important member of the scene, but the band holds the honor of being among the first of Sweden’s pioneers into this fuzzed-out, spaced-out style. The band’s latest album Refractions is their first new release in over a decade, and a welcome return at that.
As you’d expect with a stoner rock record, the guitar tone is great. It has a crisp, classic sound that gives way to a ton of dynamic range. I do think the clean bass tone is a bit dull and muddy, but when they put some grit on it the bass sounds fine. The band leans more Kyuss than Queens of the Stone Age, but the vocals serve as nice in-between, sounding like a grittier Josh Homme. The drumming is tasteful intricate – just check out those intros on “Ode to Ganymede” and “Pipe Riders”.
Your enjoyment of this record will depend on how much you can stomach extended jam sections. For the jam-averse, I will say that the band keeps these parts interesting. Lowrider does an excellent job of keeping these sections purposeful and directional. In other words, the jam sections aren’t just total wank fests. The best of these jams on “Ode to Ganymede”. The way the section transforms is fascinating, going from a solitary guitar floating through space to the crushing void of the outro. “Sernanders Krog” has the best guitar solo; it’s both the most technical and tripped-out solo on the album. The guitar shreds over a hypnotic motif that evokes sonar pulses calling out from the deep sea. I do think there is a slight oversaturation of jamming on the album. Because of this, the instrumental track “Sun Devil / M87*” fails to stand out. The song does have its moments though.
“Pipe Riders” is by far the best song on Refractions. There’s this recurring otherworldly melody that is doubled by guitar and organ that I just can’t get enough of. The song has a mystic aura that remains entrancing throughout its 11 minute runtime. The grungy opener “Red River” is also a standout, but for opposite reasons. It’s a pretty straightforward stoner rock banger with razor sharp riffage. The way the band intertwines the song’s bridge with the final chorus is very clever.
Overall the track sequencing flows nicely, making for a fun listen. Refractions is a strong return for Lowrider, and proof that the band still has what it takes to stand out amongst the crowded stoner rock field.
Lowrider’s new album Refractions is out Friday February 21st via Blues Funeral Recordings.
Best Tracks: Pipe Rider, Red River, Ode to Ganymede
Weakest Tracks: Sun Devil / M87*
FFO: Kyuss, Truckfighters, Graveyard
Overall Score: B