Retrospective #3 – Monster Magnet

Monster Magnet are New Jersey’s finest! Originally formed in 1989, only Dave Wyndorf remains from the original line-up. This retrospective will cover their first 10 studio albums and does not include their latest 2021 covers album.

In the 90’s, it was very hard to find Metal on terrestrial television in the UK. We had a show originally called the Power Hour, that changed to Raw Power that morphed into something like Noisy Mothers or similar. Because us metal heads are nocturnal, they showed this show about 3am on a Saturday Morning. This was before modern technology let you set things up in advance with series links or anything spectacular like that. No, in my youth, I had to set my VHS video recorder to record the show on tape.  It was worth it. In addition to falling in love with the presenter, Nikki Groocock, I later saw a music video that led me to fall in love with New Jersey’s finest.

‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ was the song and Retrospective #3 is Monster Magnet.

Album Retrospective – Monster Magnet.

Before we start on the full album retrospective, I need to advise that I think Dave Wyndorf epitomise a Metal God. Skinny as a rake, long hair, shades and seriously charismatic. Dave Wyndorf is ultra-cool. He also shares the same birthday as me, which obviously makes me every bit as awesome as Dave.

Spine of God was the first full album released by Monster Magnet. It was released in 1991 in Europe, and 1992 in the USA. Deemed a ‘classic’ by many, to me it is an album where Wyndorf was finding himself and the sound of the band. Deeply rooted with a 70’s psychedelic vibe, it was a precursor to the ‘Stoner Rock’ tag that would follow the band to this day. It has sprinklings of prog about it and it is a very enjoyable listen if you can get by the particularly ropey production. The importance of this album, however, should not be understated, as it is one of the earliest examples of Stoner rock. The importance of the album is all well and good, but many look at it with rose tinted glasses and fail to acknowledge that it is average at best. 5/10

Although not rating highly with me, Monster Magnet’s debut album secured a deal with A&M Records, where Wyndorf’s creativity spiralled magnificently.  Superjudge was their 2nd album and it was a level above their debut. This was not reflected in the sales it should have made. You see, Superjudge was released in 1993. This was the time of Grunge. People were buying albums by the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden in this period. How was a Stoner Rock band ever going to stand out? The genre was not cool enough to become mainstream, and so it remained underground with bands like the mighty Kyusscarrying the Stoner torch alongside Monster Magnet. It is with Superjudge that Monster Magnet subtly moved away from the overt psychedelia of their debut and began to stretch their wings. 7/10

In 1995, Monster Magnet hit the big time…. Well, for me they did as this was the year I heard ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ for the first time. Interestingly, it is more akin to their debut, with its psychedelic leanings, but make no mistakes. This is a rocker. This is Wyndorf exercising his inner Rock God, standing astride the Stoner genre like a colossus. The album, ‘Dopes to Infinity’ is riddled with great tracks, with ‘King of Mars’and ‘Dead Christmas’ being stand-outs – the latter often getting airplay in my house on or around Christmas day. Although this is their best album so far, people are still buying later era Grunge albums as well as listening to music from a new genre that was in its infancy ‘Nu-Metal’. Fortunately, Monster Magnet prevailed and we were in for a Stoner classic! 9/10

1998 saw me buy my first Monster Magnet CD. Powertrip was their 4th album and it was absolutely stunning. No longer were the band stifled by other genres of metal. Wyndorf had released perfection.  I remember hearing a song called ‘Bummer’ on a compilation CD, potentially from Kerrang! or Metal Hammer, and it utterly ripped me apart from the inside out. It was ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ plus infinity. I bought the CD on the day of release and played it constantly, much to the annoyance of a few of my University friends. The singles were also superb, true genre classics, ‘Space Lord’is still awe inspiring. I then got to see the band for the first time at Metallica’s ‘Big Day Out’ festival at Milton Keynes Bowl in the UK. This gig demonstrated the fact that Wyndorf is a Rock God, setting fire to his guitar, refusing to leave the stage. This is when I truly fell in love with Monster Magnet. Alas, it was not to last. 10/10

God Says No was released in 2000, and I greedily snapped it up, perhaps unfairly, expecting a similar experience that their previous album gave me. The potential was there, there are BIG tunes on there! ‘Doomsday’ and ‘Heads Explode’ are particularly good, however over here in the UK, we received 2 bonus tracks, of which ‘Silver Future’ is an absolute stunner. The problem was that the album isn’t as consistent as Powertrip, and so perhaps I have judged it too harshly in the past.  It is an album that should be judged on its own merits, as this improves the listening experience. 7/10

It was the release of Monotholic Baby in 2004, on a new record label, where my interest in the band started to drift. Rooted firmly with a 70’s vibe, the album has 3 cover songs included, of which ‘The Right Stuff’ is worth a listen, as is ‘Monolithic’, however, the album does tend to meander. This is fine if you like a tickle psychedelica in your tunes, but alas, my musical journey was heading in a different direction that that of Dave. Although I own this album, this retrospective was probably the first time I had listened to it in 15 years.  It maybe another 15 before I venture into it again. 5/10

In 2006, Dave Wyndorf overdosed on prescription medication. Speaking to Blabbermouth, Dave said that they were anti-anxiety drugs, intended to help solve sleep issues he had whilst touring. Fortunately, after a spell in hospital, Dave recovered and Monster Magnet was able to continue. I remember this time vividly, reading the stories in Kerrang! and Metal Hammer at the time, just hoping he would be OK.

The musical upshot of this was that 4-Way Diablo, their 7th album, was delayed a year, finally being released in 2007. This is the last Monster Magnet album that I bought and, until very recently, I had not listened to it since that year. A slight improvement on the previous album, it lacks the joy and oomph of the early albums. During my research for this retrospective, I found an interview with Dave, where he says it was recorded in ‘the wrong key’ and that is why songs from this album are never included in their live set-list. I find this a bit strange, surely they could play them live the way that they ‘should’ have been recorded?  Perhaps it is, and I am speculating here, that this album reflects a bad time in Dave’s life and also that it isn’t very good?  6/10

By now, it was obvious to me that my musical tastes, heading towards Death Metal and other forms of Extreme Music was at a tangent to that of Monster Magnet, and although I still adored their earlier albums, I never listened to any of their post 2007 material until a few weeks ago. Part of the reason that I want to write these retrospectives is to try to reconnect with bands that left me behind, or that I had left behind. So, it was with keen interest that I started listening to modern Monster Magnet for the first time.

Mastermind was released in October 2010 on a new record label, Napalm Records. I was gobsmacked when I listened to the opening tracks. My Monster Magnet was back, in a manner of speaking.  The band I had abandoned were back with swagger, still hinting at the 70’s vibes, but with a hard rock exterior that all but ditched the psychedelic overtones. I made a mistake in never listening to it. Tracks like ‘Gods and Punks’, ‘100 Million Miles’ and ‘Dig That Hole’ prove that Dave was back. Mastermind should be noted as being lead guitarist Ed Mundell’s final album with the band, meaning that he left on a High.  8/10

Album number 9 was released in 2013 and, after listening to the previous album for the first time, I was genuinely intrigued to see if Monster Magnet would continue in this new vein, or would they slip back again? In truth, Last Patrol does a bit of both. It is not as strong as the previous album, but it retains a sense of fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which gives it a sense of charm. More of a traditional Stoner Rock album that previously, it goes to show that Dave will never stand still and, love them or loathe them, Monster Magnet will march to the beat of their own drum. 7/10

Mindfucker was released in 2018 and is the final album of this retrospective (remember – no cover albums will be included). It seems now, that Monster Magnet have found their groove. A 70’s influenced Stoner/Hard Rock band. This is a very enjoyable listen, again not quite hitting their highs, there are a handful of ‘fillers’ on here, but the hard hitting tunes prevent it from ever getting close to being a generic album, especially songs like ‘Soul’ and ‘Mindfuck’. Dave Wyndorf is now 64 years old. He still the epitome of a Metal God.  7/10

  • The DevilsHorns must listen – Powertrip
  • Find out more – Check out the original versions of their latest album A Better Dystopia
  • Off the beaten track – Check out Ed Mundell’s band The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic

Published by thedevilshorns

I have been listening to metal since 1985, begging my friend to give me a copy of Iron Maiden's epic live album, 'Live After Death'. He refused, so I had another friend give me a copy instead (the copy had a jump in 'Flight of Icarus', funny the things you remember). I currently write reviews for www.metalepidemic.com, and it is a hobby that I love. The joy of hearing new bands that I may not have discovered cannot be easily quantified. But where does that leave time for artists that have been with me for over 35 years? That is the reason for this blog. My name is Paul, and I am The Devils Horns!

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