Dozer – A Retrospective
In March 2020 Heavy Pysch Sounds are poised to re-issue the first three albums by Swedish Stoner stalwarts Dozer. For those unfamiliar with this small town band and their rise to success and adoration in the desert rock scene, theirs is a tale of the triumph of a blue collar grinding, hardwork ethic. And ass kicking tunes.
Formed in 1995 by guitarist Tommi Holappa, guitarist/singer Fredrik Nordin, drummer Erik Bäckwall and bassist Magnus Larsson, they came to prominence by playing every small venue and supporting any band they could in their local area until they gained a foothold in their own right. Whilst Larsson was replaced by Johan Rocker, they lost no momentum, even garnering favourable reviews from, love or loath them, Kerrang! magazine for their 7” single which even bagged them Single Of The Week.
This lead to a collaboration with one of the scene’s heavyweights, John Garcia and his post Kyuss band Unida and in 1999, they released a split EP Best Of Wayne Gro/Coming Down The Mountain on the highly respected MeteorCity. An EP that’s still very much sort after with only two thousand vinyl copies pressed across two runs.
Combined with their own demo, the split with Unida caught the attention of the revered Man’s Ruin Records, noted for featuring artists such as Kyuss, High On Fire, QOTSA, Iron Monkey, Fu Manchu, Entombed, I could go on. Owner Frank Kozik was suitably impressed and for a mere $500 Dozer released their debut album In The Tail Of A Comet in 2000 to generally favourable reviews.
Whilst critics may not have fallen head over heels with the release, the high energy driving and hard edged metal sounding take on the desert rock genre helped them to stand out and win fans over. The heavy sound was balanced out with the impressive melodic stylings of vocalist Nordin, whose distinctive vocal gave them a more unique sound than their peers.
Dozer is also a tale of hard work prevailing, commitment, delivering great content coupled with explosive live shows that appealed to the audience first, rather than being the darlings of critics. Through this, they were often spoken of as a (under rated) force in the scene, a connoisseur’s band, rather than the latest glamorously featured name.
Riding this wave of momentum, they once again entered the studio and recorded their second album, Madre de Dios (Mother Of God in Spanish and a River in Peru) which was released in 2001, again for Man’s Ruin. Despite the fact this is one of the last releases for the label (that is an article in itself frankly!), the album further built upon the band’s output and gave them a new sonic arsenal to batter their live crowds. The result was lapped up and helped cement their place in the genre as they blended the clear Kyuss influence with a more psychedelic style that would recall Monster Magnet at their finest.
Following the collapse of Man’s Ruin, Dozer’s third album Call It Conspiracy, would be released on Molten Universe, the label owned by their manager and also handled the vinyl release of Madre de Dios. It’s this record that saw the band really establish their own sound and marked an important turning point in their musical career as it allowed them to strike out ahead of the competition and shake off some of the metal band meets Kyuss tags they had lazily gained. This is in part thanks to the top notch production job from Chips Kiesbye, who had also worked with fellow Swedes The Hellacopters.
Drummer Bäckwall would leave the band not long after the release of Call It Conspiracy so touring duties were ably handled by Karl Daniel Lidén, formerly of Demon Cleaner who Dozer shared the Kerrang! Single Of The Week with. This would also signal a period of inconsistency behind the kit, although they didn’t allow it to slow down their momentum.
Dozer would capitalise on this with two more studio albums, 2006’s Through The Eyes Of Heathens, which is often talked about as their masterpiece and a must have for any fan of stoner rock and Beyond Colossal in 2008, an album as criminally underrated as they come.
Through The Eyes Of Heathens would see band find a new home on Small Stone Records and even sport a guest appearance from Troy Sanders of Mastodon on guest vocals. Widely recognised as the sound of a band hitting their creative and individual high point, it also showed adding Lidén was a stroke of genius as the former Greenleaf/Demon Cleaner man brought his dexterous stylings to the party. This combined with his experience as a producer and engineer saw the band have a diverse and powerful platform on which they could craft heads down rockers, bouncing grooves or even the restrained dynamics of their more melodic material.
However once again the drumming seat would prove to be a tricky spot to hold down and during the touring cycle in 2006 Lidén would leave the band to be replaced by Olle Mårthans, who has fortunately remained to this day. Brimming with confidence they released their fifth album, Beyond Colossal, recorded mixed by the departed Lidén and featuring another guest vocalist, this time in the shape of Clutch’s Neil Fallon.
Beyond Colossal was a towering addition to their arsenal and crammed full of everything that makes Dozer a band to be celebrated; the desert dry stoner riffing, Black Sabbath heavy passages, fretboard pyrotechnics, pounding drums and Nordin turning in his most accomplished performance on the microphone to date. Although darker and gloomier than previous efforts, this album is more experimental and the sound of a band with their own identity pushing themselves further.
Despite all this positive momentum and their usual dedication to the road, the band entered a hiatus in 2009 with Holappa claiming that they could well have played their last show as Nordin went back to school, leaving the others to continue with their side projects. However, this would fortunately only last until late 2012 when the band became active once more and booked several live shows.
Over the last few years they have continued to play live and their social media accounts have gathered momentum including booking a full Australian tour for later this year. They’ve also announced that they’ve inked a deal with Heavy Psych Sounds to reissue their first three classic albums throughout March which I will look at in a separate review.
Hopefully all signs point to a new future for Dozer. The band may have been missing with regards of studio action for 12 years, but the five albums they released in an impressively short space of time definitely left a mark on the stoner scene that made them stand out from the legions of pot huffing, Sabbath worshippers, who have smoked it up in garages across the world.
Theirs a legacy of equal parts determination, hard work and pure talent which if nothing else, has to be respected and appreciated. The scene has sorely missed a band of their energy and vision they showed by the end of their recording career. The opening trio of albums showcase the hunger and passion that they had to break out of their native Sweden and take a brand of desert rock, infused with an icy blast of Scandinavian air, to a much wider and grateful audience.
If people like to root for the underdog story, then Dozer are the ones to champion and if they do decide to commit anything to tape, it’ll be a day for the scene to rejoice in a long overdue come back.
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Instagram
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden