Ah, Monster Truck—one of innumerable bands to hold a status of revivalist geezer-pleasers and ride that wave to enormous heights based off nostalgia and the axiom of ‘it’s good because it sounds old’. At least, that’s how 2018’s True Rockers felt, which could’ve been the noteworthy but ultimately harmless black mark on the band’s rap sheet, had they not gone on to endorse Kid Rock’s reworking of their song Don’t Tell Me How To Live for his mealy-mouthed whinging about snowflakes and millennials. Since then, frontman Jon Harvey has done some Olympic-level gymnastics to justify himself and plead ignorance to that version’s subject matter (which, if you actually read it, is supremely hard to buy), but his staunch assertion to keep Monster Truck as a ‘party band’ implies their unwillingness to strive outside of that oft-restrictive throwback box any time soon.
If anything, it’d probably be more welcome for Monster Truck to go the way of bloviating right-wing voiceboxes, because then there’d at least be something to say about them. Right now, Warriors has them waist-deep in throwback hard rock genericism that isn’t particularly exciting or entertaining, certainly not to the degree a supposed ‘party band’ should be. Instead, it’s just functionally adequate as so many bands like this are, deserving of a wider spotlight insofar as they’ve managed to wring more out of this style that others in terms of raw numbers. Otherwise, you’ve heard practically this entire album already from multiple different sources, if not already from Monster Truck themselves.
It’s worth mentioning at the top what Warriors does right though, because even compared to True Rockers, there is something there. The standout feature is the guitars that pack much more size and meat in, feeding in a heaviness that goes a couple of steps further than normal. That’s still within a critically narrow parameter though, but if there’s a brainless, beer-swilling source of enjoyment to be found on this album, it would be here. Presence does seem to be where Monster Truck’s primary headspace is; when they’re bolting by on Golden Woman or Wild Man, or peeling out a fatter groove on Live Free, there’s a knowledge of how volume can work that’s at least well-realised.
It’s just a shame that what’s underneath it isn’t even remotely as thrilling, in some very bog-standard classic rock templates that aren’t inflated by heaviness that much. Monster Truck are still yet to tap into something from that vein that’s explicitly theirs, and it’s why they continue to be lumped in with the scores of bands comfortable with simply regurgitating their influences. It’s hard to do with a sound like this, but it’s not like Monster Truck don’t have the experience to at least try, instead of doggedly committing to wholesale reproductions of Deep Purple or Grand Funk Railroad. Even Harvey himself acts as a fairly clean nexus for about half-a-dozen vocalists in that field, with all the barrel-chested bravado and swagger you like, but not a bit of it feeling authentically like his own.
Still, it’s hardly a grand revelation that Monster Truck are so deep into their classic rock cosplay when they’re emulating rockstar skillsets and attitudes that are basically extinct now. Golden Woman is the obvious candidate for that, where the pining for the titular woman slides into some of the hyper-masculinity and borderline chauvinism that most other bands in this lane have the foresight to avoid. Past that, Warriors’ classic rock aping is a lot more standard, from general debauchery on Live Free and Wild Man, to ultra-populist affirmations on the title track and Still Got Fire, to a tale of being cheated on and leaving on Get My Things & Go that’s too abbreviated in its thematic exploration to achieve what it wants. It’s the usual laundry list of checkboxes that albums like this tend to clutch to their chests, delivered with workmanlike efficiency from not really having to engage much more deeply with them.
Even on what could reasonably be deemed highlights—namely Fuzz Mountain as an ode to big ol’ riffs, and Country Livin’ as a deviation into breezier southern-rock—Monster Truck are pretty much just playing by the book. Among what they do, they achieve enough to prevent coming across as inept, but that isn’t the same as actively being good, or achieving something with greater substance. Warriors is definitely an improvement over its predecessor, that much is clear, but that yields little in the way of results pertinent to a wider musical landscape. Monster Truck remain jostling with the rest of their ilk in their own segmented field, basically having no effect other than a mild dopamine rush for anyone who can’t be bothered actually exploring new music. And when their particular approach to the craft remains so unwavering, that’s as far as they’ll ever be able to reach.
For fans of: Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, The Temperance Movement
‘Warriors’ by Monster Truck is released on 30th September on BMG.
Words by Luke Nuttall