Though the term "stoner rock" has pretty much been a non-starter as far as anyone actually, like, selling records, it remains the most convenient catch-all for those trying to market heavy rock bands of any stripe these days. Thus, Sweden's THE QUILL are stoner rock, despite the fact that to anyone over 30, "In Triumph" might sound like a lost BADLANDS record, coming from that noble, doomed time in the late 1980s when unapologetic, swaggering hard rock bands instead got lumped in with the teased-and-sprayed Sunset Strip poodle show. If someone ever figures out how to market straight-up rock and roll again, bands like this might finally get their due (and the ghosts of THE FOUR HORSEMEN and CIRCUS OF POWER might finally be avenged).
THE QUILL are, like BADLANDS, a bit more polished and refined than your average bar rockers — you won't find the ragged, piss-and-vinegar abandon of DIRTY RIG or the overt punk of ZEKE here. "In Triumph" is a bit more staid, opting for bluesy riffing, a more trad-metal approach to singing, and large, leaden walls of SABBATH-ian guitars kept reined in to a ponderous pace.
THE QUILL's main calling card remains their biggest congenital defect – their slow stomp sounds great, the vocals are dead-on, but a lot of it just kinds of end up… well… dreary. THE QUILL have a self-indulgent, self-important gravity, but lack memorable hooks to back it up. This makes it hard to care even on the best songs, and renders the really slow tunes, like "Merciless Room" or the "Kashmir" stomping "Black", interminable exercises in boredom.
It's a shame, because when the band does rock out (see "Trespass", the impressive "No Light On the Dark Side"), they're at their best. And Magnus Ekwall really does have a magnificent voice, a charismatic blend of Ray Gillen, Chris Cornell and Robert Plant (minus the raw, off-key sex appeal). All the ingredients are there for THE QUILL to be a truly world-class band — all but the knack for consistently writing memorable songs. It sucks that this one will go on the shelf, just like their last one, and next week it'll be as if it was never listened to at all. But there's a lot of great music coming out of the so-called stoner rock underground right now, capturing that '70s vibe in a much more compelling fashion. You just have to be better than this to stick out any more.