Consistency is the opposite of AMG’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™. Not a lot of bands can lay claim to this positive attribute. Saxon are the reigning Kings of Consistency when it comes to NWOBHM: they will never release an album that will be at the top of anyone’s year-end list, but they’ll never put out a dud either. In the stoner rock realm, Fu Manchu are that band. They’ll never hit a home run like Kyuss’ Blues for the Red Sun, they’re never going to lay an egg either. Clone of the Universe is the band’s 12th album: can they maintain their model of consistency or are they finally going to drop off?
If more fuzz than a peach, earworm riffs and choruses, and Scott Hill’s laid-back vocal delivery don’t add up to consistency, I don’t know what will, and this album carries on in the tradition of all their records. “Intelligent Worship” opens with Hill and Bob Balch blasting out massively overdriven riffs and the rhythm section of Brad Davis and drummer Scott Reeder hammering out the bottom end, complete with shakers – these guys have always loved the extra percussion instruments. “(I’ve Been) Hexed” is another slo-mo riff monster with hazily-delivered lyrics, and “Don’t Panic” is a short fast blast. In other words, these songs are right in Fu Manchu’s wheelhouse. “Slower than Light” is much more of an acid trip, but “Nowhere Left to Hide” and the title track are both based on the Fu Manchu gold template, thick and meaty and slightly silly.
There’s one exception to this whole consistency thing on Clone of the Universe, and it comes by way of the closing number, “Il Mostro Atomico.” This is an extended jam, and by extended I mean 19 glorious minutes, nearly triple the length of anything else I believe the band has recorded. It’s the highlight of the album, too: riff after riff, building, quieting down, the occasional weird psychedelic drone spacing things out, keeping our interest the entire time. And what makes this stand out even more is the vocals, or lack thereof: the song features twenty seconds of singing, but the nonsensical “Light the throttle, light the throttle” promises to stick in the craw much like “The mongoose rides” did all those years ago. Truly, Clone of the Universe is worth purchasing for this song alone.
The downside of Fu Manchu, of course, is the whole one trick pony thing. Aside from the monstrously long and excellent closer, nothing on Clone of the Universe is really any different from any other album. That’s not a bad thing; it just means if you’re looking for a band to stretch out in new directions, this ain’t that band. The band also does not include a cover song on this album, something they’ve been fond of doing in the past, but that’s a decision I’m okay with. Sonically, the album sounds on par with their last few outings as well. You really do know what you’ll get with these guys.
Clone of the Universe probably isn’t going to launch a new generation of fans, but those of us with a soft spot in our hearts for Fu Manchu will definitely enjoy the album, especially “Il Mostro Atomico,” which despite its length has been played in its entirety a lot here. Fu Manchu know who they are and they don’t mess with the formula too much here. We’re treated to plenty of fuzz-drenched riffs, lots of catchy choruses, decent production, the list goes on – just like every one of their albums. Clone of the Universe is a fun album that won’t make anyone take up skateboarding.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: At the Dojo Records
Websites: fumanchuband.bandcamp.com | fu-manchu.com | facebook.com/fumanchuband/
Releases Worldwide: February 9th, 2018