So this latest offering from Norwegians Honcho landed and I prepared myself for yet another ride through some run-of-the-mill Scandinavian stoner rock. You know the type of thing; Big Muff pedals cranking out a bunch of faceless fuzzy riffs, Sabbath/Fu Manchu rip off beats…blah blah blah. I’ll admit my preconceptions coloured this album before it even hit my CD player but I will now also admit that my preconceptions have proved I can be a complete twat!!! I certainly wasn’t expecting an album that would not only kick my arse but smack me round the face then wake me up with a bucket of cold water.
Yes this album does owe a debt to the stoner movement but it casts it’s gaze much further back to the birth of heavy rock and the 40 plus years of history that have followed. Rather than content themselves with ripping off Kyuss, Honcho have realised that the basis of truly great heavy rock and roll lies in the blues and the band recognise that heritage via Led Zeppelin and Sabbath to deliver an album of giant riffs and monstrous grooves. In fact if anyone has come close to nailing that huge John Bonham drum sound on a record in the last 30 years then Honcho must be it and the bass sounds as though it’s trying to pull you apart from the inside…and that’s just for starters!!!
“Changes” features a mammoth chorus that Soundgarden will be standing in their rehearsal room today hoping to nail to ensure they don’t become another nostalgia act and “Coupe De Ville” could inspire a thousand driving offences with its gasoline burning drive. Vocalist Trond Skog possesses an effortlessly rich and soulful set of pipes that place him firmly in classic territory and set Honcho apart from so many of the Ozzy impersonators out there or the cop out growlers.
“Fade To Grey” is a slow burn epic that veers from Led Zeppelin meets Alice In Chains bluesy introspection to chest beating big riffery whilst allowing the guitar duo of Halvor Berg and Håkon Eng to display their chops with taste and no little style. Both of these guys know their way round a tasty riff or 20 and nail those vintage tones with valves blazing to within an inch of their lives. You can almost smell the dust burning off them!!!
So we’ve had some blues but you want rock and roll right? “Brought a Knife To A Gunfight” kicks things up a gear and is equal parts MC5 and Supersuckers with an added level of machismo and those super thick vocal chords of Skog once again coming into play. In case you were worrying that this may not be heavy enough for you then “KOT (Knowing the Oak Tee)” tips its hat to some prime Sabbath doom by way of some of Queens Of The Stone Age’s better moments. It maybe sounds as though Honcho may be guilty of throwing their hat in with too many styles but not so…let’s just call it versatility shall we. Whether they’re rocking out with their cocks out or knocking seven bells out of each other with a dose of grind, this all sounds like the natural work of the same band.
In “Battle Of Wits” Honcho haven’t made a stoner album, or a doom album or an album that will sit comfortably in any other genre, they have simply made a timeless classic heavy rock and roll album. It is, perhaps, somewhat disgraceful that after a 12 year career Honcho still have to release this record themselves when any self respecting label should be falling at their feet and throwing bundles of cash in their direction while averting their unworthy gaze. Buy this album or they may well send the fat, tattooed Yakuza dude on the cover round to take your fingers off!!!
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall