The seventh studio album from New Jersey psych-stoner-rockers MONSTER MAGNET begins on a reflective note. The title track kicks off with a lightly strummed chord, while the song itself sounds thoughtful and — for this band — mellow, perhaps indicative of the frame of mind of founder, frontman and songwriter Dave Wyndorf. Famous for living the rock 'n' roll lifestyle to the fullest, Wyndorf had a close brush with death in 2006 when he overdosed on prescription drugs. As a result, he sounds subdued on "4-Way Diablo", which takes its cues less from metallic records like "Dopes to Infinity" and the classic "Powertrip", and more from the band's garage/psychedelic roots.
That's not to say Wyndorf is sitting in a corner strumming a sitar the whole time. "Wall of Fire" and "You're Alive" rock out in fiery MAGNET style, even if the songs are a little more simplistic than in the past. The band never quite builds up that head of steam again until much later in the record, with the watery verses of "Slap In The Face" giving way to a massive, "Powertrip"-style riff in the chorus.
The album's middle section gets downright meditative, a dream-like cover of THE ROLLING STONES' "2000 Lightyears From Home" anchoring a moody, trippy suite of songs that includes the weird "No Vacation", the somber "I'm Calling You" and the positively pop-like "Solid Gold", possibly the most mainstream song Wyndorf has ever written despite the explosive guitar pyrotechnics at the end. Each of these songs has its share of interesting sounds (strings and keyboards on "I'm Calling You", for example) but some of them also sound like variations on themes that Wyndorf has explored before.
"Freeze and Pixilate" is an all-out Middle Eastern opium-smoking instrumental that leads gently into the nighttime-in-the-desert vibe of "A Thousand Stars". The aforementioned "Slap" blasts off with one last burst of raw power before the album ends with the sparse, confessional "Little Bag of Gloom". Despite the up-and-down, more laid-back nature of the material, most of the songs are buttressed by layers of guitars and even the most personal tunes here still reflect the basic MONSTER MAGNET style.
If Wyndorf has been humbled by his near-death experience and is addressing life in more restrained terms on "4-Way Diablo", then so be it. A mix of MAGNET styles old and new, it still bears the unmistakable stamp of one of stoner rock’s most identifiable and unique voices, even if that voice is a little older, wiser and sadder.