[Watch the full-length video version of Truckfighters’ Live in London by clicking play above. 2LP/CD out June 24 on Fuzzorama Records.]
Seems fair to say Truckfighters‘ quest for global fuzz-laden domination has been successful. The Örebro, Sweden-based trio formed in 2001 and particularly since the release of their 2005 full-length debut, Gravity X (discussed here), they’ve put in nearly unparalleled road time as one of the hardest working bands in heavy rock, European or otherwise. Releasing through their own Fuzzorama Records imprint, burning through drummers at a Spinal Tapian pace (an exaggeration, but still), touring the world and bringing an unmatched energy to their performances, Truckfighters are by now a band whose reputation precedes them, but their getting to the point of being a key influence for European heavy rock has been no accident.
One might consider the 77-minute 2LP/CD Live in London (plus a bonus video; debuted above), recorded at the O2 Academy in Nov. 2014, as a victory lap for this triumph. That’s not to assert Truckfighters see it that way or sound at all ready to rest on their laurels, or rest at all for that matter. Both in their on-stage vitality and the creative progression shown on 2014’s Universe (review here) — for which they were touring when Live in London was recorded — they quite clearly still have more to say. But a sense of celebration rings through the 11 tracks of their first live album, and considering it’s the 15th anniversary of the band being founded by bassist/vocalist Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm and guitarist/backing vocalist Niklas “Dango” Källgren, there would seem to be all the more worth celebrating.
At the time, Ozo and Dango were joined by drummer Axel “Enzo” Larsson. As noted in the 2012 documentary A Film About a Band Called Truckfighters (review here), one of the chief challenges Truckfighters have faced is finding a drummer able to keep pace with their work ethic — Daniel “El Danno” Israelsson of Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra currently holds the position — and the fact that Larsson plays on Live in London emphasizes the one-moment-in-time feel inherent in any such live release. Perhaps the highest compliment one could pay to the outing is that it captures the raw force of Truckfighters on stage. A major portion of how they earned the reputation they have has been by out-rocking rooms one at a time across the world, and Live in London makes a clear demonstration of how they’ve done it, starting with the thick bounce of “Mind Control” and sustaining its impact through the set finale “Desert Cruiser” — which used to open sets, but makes a fitting encore here.
But as inclusions like “Last Curfew” from 2009’s Mania (review here), “The Chairman” and “Get Lifted” from Universe, a nine-minute jammy take on “Manhattan Project” from Gravity X or “Traffic” from 2007’s Phi sophomore LP show, Truckfighters‘ catalog offers more than fodder for jumping around while riffing. There’s plenty of that to go around, of course, with “Monte Gargano” or “Atomic” or “In Search of (the),” but Live in London winds up bringing the depth of the band’s approach forward as much as the calisthenic aspect. And rightly so. Without the foundation of songwriting and of course the tones of Källgren and Cedermalm, whose fuzz comes through full and dense in this recording but still able to move when they need it to, the whole affair would fall flat. Needless to say, that’s not how it works out on Live in London.
Rather, with stage-hewn clarity, they establish the full breadth of their dynamic across the live album’s span, finding middle ground in cuts like “The Chairman,” “Atomic” and “Manhattan Project” (before the jam) where they catch their breath before proceeding with the next high-speed forward drive. With Ozo and particularly Dango encouraging the London crowd to get in on the action — shouts that start with “Good evening London!” and continue with various iterations of “Come on!” and “Are you with us?” assure the audience is as into it as the band, or at least as much as they can be without kicking each other — the momentum is established early and holds sway even in quieter or slower moments.
This can’t be easy to do, to go so hard and then pull back like that, but again, Truckfighters have worked at it. That might be what Live in London says most of all, that the band’s efforts to get to where they are haven’t been in vain, and that it’s from years of grinding it out in a van — something directly addressed on “Traffic” — that they’re able to deliver the caliber of performance that they are. Their slogan as a band is that they’re “Quite possibly the best band in the world.” Part of the appeal of that is the wink-and-nod humor behind it, but it also stands as an example of the scope they’ve been aiming for over the better part of the last 15 years. They don’t want to be the best band in Örebro, or Sweden, or Europe. Truckfighters continue to have their sights set on a bigger picture, and Live in London is another example of how their ambition has come to pay off.