Notes From Truckfighters Fuzz Festival #3 in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 10, 2022 (Night Two)

Posted in Features, Reviews on December 13th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Truckfighters (Photo by JJ Koczan)

4:05PM – Before the show

It’s kind of a shame that when this trip is over and I go home, I probably won’t keep the image in my head of sitting here at this table and watching the December wind pushing along the top of the water of the Liljeholmsviken out the window of Bar Brooklyn. In the big room next door, Debaser, Truckfighters are soundchecking, then Firestone, Enigma Experience getting set here. I’m here earlier than yesterday, and I was plenty early yesterday too, anxious to get everything sorted see what the evening held in store for photos and whatnot, but today I mostly just got tired of sitting around, being headachy and jetlagged without the distraction of anything else on which to focus. Here I’ve got bass coming through the wall. Probably won’t cure the headache, but going nuclear with xanax, Advil and coffee should help things balance out, stop me from grinding my teeth, etc.

At some point last night, it occurred to me that as of today, it’s been a decade since the last time I took a drink of alcohol, and no, getting beer spilled on you doesn’t count — I packed a spare pair of pants for tonight, since it seems reasonable to expect that will again. Swedes going hard this weekend. But yeah, 10 years. I still don’t really call myself ‘sober,’ though it’s handy shorthand for ‘no I don’t drink because I used to drink too much,’ plus my relatively recent (re-)dive into various THC consumables doesn’t exactly speak to a drive for lucidity, but as far as being something, it’s not nothing. Given the shape my body is in more generally and the trajectory of deeper middle age to come, not downing a case of beer and/or a bottle of wine every night is probably the right call. I’m rarely tempted to drink, so that’s fortunate.

Coat check debaser StockholmI’m also wearing a warmer hoodie tonight, since among Debaser’s amenities is a massive coat-check — it could basically be a third stage; has to account for both rooms — of which I plan to avail myself when it opens. Until then, things are pretty quiet here. I met last night an entire American contingent, including members of Texas’ Mr. Plow and long-tenured folks from shows more local to me. Hell, Ron (you know Ron) was in Richmond last weekend too, so no lack of continuity there.

The days are shorter here than at home. I don’t know what time the sun came up, as much as it did, with yesterday’s grim and grey weather carrying over, but it’s been full nighttime for over an hour now. Stockholm was out partying last night though, dance clubs going off near here, and one here after the show was done, welp-dressed people waiting in line to get in as the rock crowd made its way out. Would expect more of that tonight as well.

But it’s a cool city and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it tomorrow before flying out Monday morning, and I’m incredibly grateful to be here, thank you to Steve and the guys from Kings Destroy for having me along, intruding on their band-time, and to Truckfighters for putting this whole thing together and allowing me to access and cover it. And thank you as always for reading, Firestone soundcheckbecause if you didn’t, none of this shit would ever happen. This trip wraps the busiest stretch of travel in my life; since June, I’ve been to Germany, flew to Las Vegas in August, did Oslo in October, Mexico (not music-related but still travel) in November, drove to Virginia last weekend and now I’m here. Please don’t think I don’t understand how lucky I am.

Okay, enough sappy stuff, time for rock and roll. Thanks again and here we go.

Truckfighters Fuzz Festival #3 – Night Two


Firestone (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Was not sure what to expect from a Firestone reunion. Among Swedish heavy rock bands, they came about right as other stuff was kind of tailing off, but their Stonebeliever EP and their Fuzzsplit of the Century with Truckfighters — for whom Firestone guitarist Oskar Cedermalm already doubled on bass and vocals — remain choice these two decades later, and sure enough, they got on stage and delivered that sound, that fuzz for Fuzz Festival. I’ll admit I’m curious as to their plans, if they’re going to keep going, make another go of it now that there’s a different generational fanbase that’s proven ready and willing to dig back into older bands and material so long as it doesn’t suck and is available, and after seeing them play, it doesn’t seem over the top to think they might keep it going, but of course you never know watching a band on stage what else they might have going on in their lives. All the more with reunions. Still, they were vital in energy and classic in form, easy to dig for sure, and with the infrastructure of Fuzzorama Records behind them, it at least doesn’t feel crazy to think they could make something of it, even if that’s just more fest appearances every now and then.

Enigma Experience

Enigma Experience (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They were actually one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing, and I know that sounds funny given some of the acts on this bill over the two nights, but Enigma Experience released their debut album, Question Mark (review here), in 2020, and I feel like I’ve been trying ever since I heard it to get a handle on where exactly their sound is coming from. Seeing them live, as one would hope, gave more of a sense. Because it’s Niklas Källgren on guitar, at least some portion of the tone is going to be recognizable from his work in Truckfighters — yes, he and Oskar are both pulling double duty, triple if you count running the fest — but the context is legitimately different, and yeah, you might liken it to, well, he’s still jumping around on stage, but he’s doing so performing more vocals, switching from acoustic to electric, and complementing the stage presence of Maurice Adams while donning ladies’ eveningwear. The songs, still definitely rock and straight ahead, are also atmospheric in a way that makes me think they’ll continue to grow along those lines, and what’s nascent in their sound now will play an increasing role going forward as they grow together as a unit and gain the inherent confidence from that. They, very clearly, are on their way.


Astroqueen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Not that I speak the language or anything, because I most definitely don’t, tack så mycket, but I’m pretty sure I heard Astroqueen announce from the stage they’ve got a new record coming. That would be their first in over 20 years — working on the Lowrider promotional model; funny that it works — and it would only be welcome if it’s got a fraction of the force I heard come off the stage. Playing more or less in the dark, they were no less vibrant for it, and where one might expect that two decades down the line the crowd might not be as immediately on board, but indeed, they had the room held rapturous. Again, it’s that same scene that produced Dozer, Firestone, Truckfighters, Demon Cleaner, The Awesome Machine, Astroqueen, all those bands who used to haunt the message boards and word of whom now spreads through social media. They are just not a band I ever expected to see, though I’ve had Into Submission since it was current, but it only really underlines for me how lucky I am to be here, to do this. The sound was bass-heavy and that’s just fine. They’ve been doing very select shows up to this point, but I can’t help but wonder how much they’ll get out with a new album to support. I look forward to potentially finding out, provided my inner translation matrix wasn’t way off and I’m excited about what was actually banter about doughnuts backstage or something. I guess you never really know until the press release, but here’s hoping.

Kings Destroy

Look at me, punching me ‘seen ’em in multiple countries’ card with Kings Destroy. They’ve toured Europe before, not to mention Australia and New Zealand, and I saw them in August, but to be honest, they used to play all the time, they don’t anymore, and I’m glad to catch a set whenever the opportunity might present itself. They were packed onto the Bar Brooklyn stage, the second five-piece there on the fest behind Gaupa last night, and they owned the room. The lights, the sound, the crowd were all in their favor, and that made being there for it that much better, but they’re the reason I got to come here in the first place, so watching them play is automatically a positive association in my mind, even when they complain about the set afterwards, which I have a hard time thinking they will tonight. You never know when it’s going to be the last time, so make the most of it. That was what I was trying to do in the front of the stage. My back’s sore, my head’s sore, and I don’t care. I know that most people don’t really get where this band is coming from — I’ll readily admit their second record was a head-scratcher for me for years until I got the vinyl — but I don’t care about that either. Call it sentimental if you want, it doesn’t matter. I feel fortunate every time I watch Kings Destroy play, and tonight they lived up to the occasion as well as their spot on the bill.


Greenleaf (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Words like “powerhouse” were invented for Greenleaf. I’ve seen the band that was once a classic rock side-project of Dozer’s Tommi Holappa before, but not since Arvid Hällagård joined on vocals, and he, Holappa, bassist Hans Frölich and drummer Sebastian Olsson just absolutely laid waste. I mean it. With Hällagård tapping full-on blues vocally with melody and confidence that reminds in the rawer live setting of some of what Dirty Streets touch on, from the opening notes, they took command of that room and made it move. Sound as physical presence. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to write about them objectively again, as much as I ever could, because there was such a sense of revelry, still drawn from that classic style that was the core of their beginning, but made into something compellingly their own over time. And in the year since Echoes From a Mass (review here) came out, my affection for it has only deepened. I don’t know if it’s timeless, their sound, but it’s dug through time to become something that is in and out of it simultaneously, and watching them play live, it was like watching dances being invented. What. A. Fucking. Band. The kind of band who make you wonder how it building still has doors. I’ll say this now, any opportunity I get to see Greenleaf, I’m going to take it for as long as I am able. They were superlative.


Kal-El (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rippers. I had a feeling the Stavenger, Norway-based five-piece would be bringing it hard to Fuzz Fest, and yes, they delivered on that expectation. Nothing to argue with when a band comes out of the gate width that much of a sense of who they are and what they do. Last year, they released Dark Majesty (review here) and only built on the momentum they’d amassed over the few years prior, and if the crowd response they got at Bar Brooklyn is the result of that work they’ve put in, then yeah, they earned it. “Witches of Mars,” “Dark Majesty” itself, and their closing cover of Kyuss’ quintessential “Green Machine” found them well in charge of that space, and for not the first time here I felt like this festival could have had two rooms of equal size. As was, Kal-El brought volume and depth in kind, and handed it out with due aplomb. They’re a newer band, having put out their first release in 2015, but they’re zeroed right in on that Scandinavian ideal, having taken the lessons of California desert rock and turned influence into new creation. Kal-El made their case — “I plead the riff,” to make probably a too-American reference — and brought down Brooklyn Bar as only a headliner could and invariably must.


Truckfighters (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They weren’t the first Swedish fuzz band, which is something they’ve plainly acknowledged in booking this fest, but I don’t think you can really have a conversation about fuzz from here or otherwise without respecting what Truckfighters have brought to the style. With an inimitable stage presence and nigh-on aerobic delivery, they’ve become one of the most influential heavy rock bands of their generation, at home and abroad, and their years of steady touring and the expansion of their own sound over the course of their studio material isn’t to be understated. I’m telling you this to emphasize the point that this is a group — Niklas Källgren and Oskar Cedermalm, both founding members, with a succession of drummers rounding out the trio — whose efforts have directly contributed to the way one thinks of heavy rock today. Following Greenleaf is no easy task, I don’t care who you are, and Truckfighters earn extra kudos by not making it easy on themselves in terms of where they are on the bill — don’t forget, they’re running the show and they’ve both played sets with other bands already today — but did they deliver? I wonder, could there be any doubt? Nah. They came out — on time, mind you — and tore the place a new one, that bassy sound that had given Astroqueen so much wub pushing Truckfighters heavier even as they operated true to form. It was an occasion because they made it one, literally and figuratively, and up front I could feel the full press of the crowd behind me, swaying, shoving, moving to the music. These guys tried to do the indefinite hiatus thing a few years ago, already not owing anyone anything, and that only seemed to bring into relief how crucial they are. Yeah, they go nuts on stage — mostly Källgren at this point, but he’s enough for everybody, and Cedermalm is by no means standing any more still than he has to in order to sing, but they’ve become a more dynamic band with time. Their legacy will invariably be tied to “Desert Cruiser, the Gravity X album, which was their first, but their reach is broader than they generally get credit for, and they continue to uphold a standard that most bands daydream about. All-in, every second. That’s who they are.

When it’s over, you try to drink in as many little details as possible to preserve it. The pulsing bass of the drag-friendly dance party after the show. The spiced-berry taste of that sip of (non-alcoholic) glögg from Peder sitting with his family in a cozy, low-ceiling bakery. The smell of candied nuts in the winter market so exactly the same as New York. A crane lit in green neon in Old Town, who knows why. A spiral staircase outside a three-story house seen out the window of the train on the way to the airport. I am lucky to have been here.

More pics after the jump. Thanks again for reading, and special thanks to Justin Waggoner for letting me step in front to take pictures of Greenleaf and Mat Hause for doing the same before Truckfighters on the Debaser stage. Thank you to Steve Murphy, The Patient Mrs., my mother and Peder Bergstrand. I am fortunate to have such love in my life. Thanks to everyone who came up and said hi at the show. It was humbling.

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Notes From Truckfighters Fuzz Festival #3 in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 9, 2022 (Night One)

Posted in Features, Reviews on December 12th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Dozer (Photo by JJ Koczan)

4:17PM – Before the show

The pilot described it as beautiful weather in Stockholm, and then I think actually checked what the weather was and was like, “uh, winter conditions,” which meant lazily snowing and cold, both of which it is. That flight arrived this morning. I’d managed to sleep on the plane with an open seat next to me in a row of two — in fits and starts as I tried to squeeze my post-surgery knee into various positions, hoping one of them would magically pass for comfort — and then took the train to the hostel where I’m crashing with the guys in Kings Destroy. They’d been invited to play Truckfighters Fuzz Festival in 2020, and you’ll never guess how that went.

This is my first time at Debaser and Bar Brooklyn, my first time in Stockholm and my first time in Sweden. The festival is set to take place in the two conjoined venues, one bigger, one smaller, and as I sit and write, Gaupa are soundchecking for their headlining set later, merch is being laid out, all that kind of stuff. The quiet before the fuzz, as it were. Truckfighters Fuzz Fest scheduleApparently these days I’m more comfortable getting someplace early.

Mammonaut and Death Ray Boot open the Debaser and Bar Brooklyn stages, respectively. I’ve seen some of the Dozer and Colour Haze guys around, Truckfighters of course are here — they’re running it, so they ought to be — but I’m not looking to take up anybody’s time with my awkward-ass hellos. A quick hi after a set suits me well enough, but it’s nice to see familiar faces in a place I’ve never been.

Well, I just closed out the week, so I suppose that means I’m off the clock. Perfect for covering two killer nights of heavy rock and roll that feel like they were curated as a personal favor to yours truly (which of course they were not). If you stick through checking any of it out, thanks in advance.

Truckfighters Fuzz Festival #3 – Night Two


Mammonaut (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hard to complain about an uptempo fuzzy kickoff to an event billed quite literally as a fuzz festival. You wanted the tone, you got the tone. Sweden’s own Mammonaut recorded their 2020 debut EP, The Last Mammonaut, with Niklas from Truckfighters, and in some of the push of the drums one can hear that influence coming through, but there’s a bit more burl at the forefront of Mammonaut’s sound and that makes them all the more suited to lead this particular charge. Immediate vibe, dug in, groove on lockdown and not in the pandemic kind of way. Less proggy Skraeckoedlan, maybe? Definitely some hint of metal shared there between those two, but Mammonaut’s sound feels cohesive for essentially being a nascent project. If nothing else — and really, plenty else — they know when to give the riff its due and I’m not about to fight them on the point. I would not be surprised in the least if when they get around to a first full-length it comes out through Fuzzorama, and if it does, they’ll be a good fit.

Death Ray Boot

Death Ray Boot (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I had watched them soundcheck, so maybe some of the surprise was spoiled ahead of time, but it was still fun to watch Andreas Wulkan, who used to play in Deville and stayed at my house one time in 2014, fronting the band. Straight up heavy rock, a few shades of classic form, some Queens of the Stone Age-riffing for added flair, they started off the smaller of the two stages sharing Mammonaut’s affinity for uptempo push but were more decisively rock-based, and that made the songs feel all the warmer while bringing a strut to coincide with all the stomp. The room packed out, as I expect it will for the next two nights basically every time there is a band on the stage, and they played well to the crowd, clearly feeding off that energy as they also fed into it. Who doesn’t want a bit of boogie to go with all that hairy riffing? The back and forth between stages is pretty tight, but so far so good. Two for two is a good start and I know there’s more joy to come.

Swan Valley Heights

Just to be specific, yes, I was talking about this band when I said “joy” just now. On an evening headlined by Colour Haze, it’s hard not to appreciate some warm heavy psychedelic rock, and with reminders of the days of Sungrazer, Germany’s Swan Valley Heights were immediately known to the crowd and offered righteous immersion, blending impulses toward harder push with a tonal breadth that was seemed to reach that much farther back as they went on. These sets have been short, but how many chances in my life am I going to have to see Swan Valley Heights? They picked up the pace as they went on, a little bit of classic turn of the century-style European heavy, and maintained the fluidity that made me want to watch and hear them so damn much in the first place. I know that at some point soon the pace of this night is going to slow down, but so far the bang-bang-bang has made for a sampling that brings to mind the similarities as well as the differences between these acts. The flow from one to the next does not feel accidental or unconsidered, and with Swan Valley Heights, their own flow became a big part of the proceedings.

High Desert Queen

High Desert Queen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

One of two US bands on the bill, I was kind of expecting to have to wait until they made the trip to Desertfest New York or some such to see Texas’ High Desert Queen, but this’ll work too, for sure. Regardless of where it happened — well, not entirely regardless; it’s pretty special to be in Sweden — that is one kick ass rock and roll band. They kind of stole the show. If you’ve been paying attention over the course of the last year-plus, High Desert Queen have been making their presence felt in genuine upstart fashion, and the energy they brought to that stage was a clear answer as to how. They’ve already made intentions known to be back in Europe and the UK next year (they were recently confirmed for Desertfest London 2023), and given the reception they got on the Brooklyn Bar stage, that’ll be a party worth attending. They didn’t even have their gear since their luggage apparently got lost — frontman Ryan Garney shouted out Lufthansa during the set — and they still very clearly gave it their collective all for the set, and the crowd went off. Up front, I got my first Swedish beer spilled on me, which felt like a ceremonial rite, and that was my cue to move back, but a sticky backpack is a small price to pay to see a band put so much into delivering their songs to a crowd.


Dozer (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Dozer aren’t the only reason to make this trip at all, but if they were, they’d be enough. They’ve got a new record coming, but the focus here was on classics, and that felt like a win out in the crowd, where by the end of the first song I was covered on the bottom left half, including the pocket with my other camera lens in it, in some particularly drunk asshole’s beer. Alas. How could it be otherwise? I was not, however, going to let unexpectedly wearing a fellow attendee’s Carlsberg spoil seeing Dozer for only the second time in my increasingly long and privileged life, and even watching from the back they were on fire. Jammed a bit, sold the melodies well, and when it came to that absolutely inimitable forward shove, it was right on the money. They’ve gotta be past the 25-year mark by now, and they’ve got the legacy to prove it, but they played their set, and that might be the highest compliment I can give them. Earlier in the day, I asked on Facebook what were the best Swedish heavy rock records of all time. Dozer had a couple candidates on there, and if I was actually making a list — no, I’m not — they would be on it. Undeniable chemistry, undeniable songwriting, undeniable delivery. And that’s just in “Rising.” I think Fredrik blew his throat out on like the fourth song, but they were nonetheless a celebration of everything that has made them so special for all this time.


Gaupa (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ll admit to considering Gaupa in a tight spot. That is to say, I’ve been listening to Dozer and Colour Haze for about two decades. Gaupa are a much newer band — their second album, Myriad, came out on Nuclear Blast last month — and for me at least, there is not the same kind of sentimental attachment. Still, with mystique aplenty and a singer barefoot on a stage that was probably no less beer-soaked than myself, Gaupa stood and made that stage look small for more than just the fact that they were a five-piece. They’re up and coming, a good bit of buzz around their latest album, so right on, and I have no doubt that 20 years from now if the species is fortunate enough to last that long — we’ve got 20 years left, right? sure — there will perhaps be people who were in that room who’ll watch Gaupa headline somewhere and feel the way I felt about the headliners here. I did not stay long — circumstances dictated I be up front early for Colour Haze, but I do not regret the sample of Gaupa that I got, and the clear takeaway for me was I need to dig into that record. Rock and roll homework. And I’ll hope this isn’t the last time our paths cross.

Colour Haze

Colour Haze (Photo by JJ Koczan)

You have favorite bands? I do, and Colour Haze are one of them. I’ve seen them a handful of times over the years, but this was my first set with Mario Oberpucher on bass, and I was almost nervous on account of that before they went on. They played “Tempel” and all was well. I’m not going to belittle either Phillip Rasthofer’s work in the band — ever — or what Oberpucher brought to those songs live or on the newer, more his, material, but the big sigh of relief for me was when it was still Colour Haze. Was it different? Sure. There isn’t much that hasn’t changed one way or the other in the last few years. But it’s still them, and them with a new album, no less. I count Sacred (review here) among 2022’s best, because obviously, and they aired a couple songs from it. Could’ve just been where I was in the room, kind of off to the side of the stage, but it seemed like Jan Faszbender’s keys and synth were higher in the mix than last time I saw them, but it didn’t hurt, him pushing against Stefan Koglek’s guitar a bit in a solo section, like jazz players bringing the best out of each other, Manfred Merwald’s intricate but accessible drumming only furthering the impression. The place went off. Not like for Dozer — no moshing that I saw — but you could feel the appreciation between the songs and in the heavier moments, as well as when they crescendoed “Transformation” with the keyboard doing the horn parts. I’ve never regretted watching them play and I’m not sure I ever would. They only have ever been, and remain, a treasure of a band. A once in a generation band. A band to be appreciated while they can be. Am I telling myself to hit the merch stand? Yes I do believe I am.

Alright, night two tomorrow. Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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