If you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard of Sweden’s Transport League. Formed way back in 1994, they knocked out four full-length discs before breaking up in 2005. During this time, TL played an in-your-face sludge style that combined the hard knocks of Clutch with the ghoulish qualities of Rob Zombie and the Southern flavors of Down and Pantera. After dabbling in the industrial world for a few years with their band M.A.N.,1 the boys decided to give Transport League another try. Since 2009, they’ve released three more LPs before arriving at this year’s A Million Volt Scream. But, this new record joins the ranks of Stallion Showcase and Boogie from Hell as another rockin’-roller that’s been out of style for two decades.
With all this expertise under their belts, unfortunately, 00’s Satanic Panic was the last quality release from TL. The back-to-back Superevil and Satanic Panic showed a band with balls, as well as one that could produce a convincing end-product. After breaking up post-Multiple Organ Harvest,2 the band returned half the bully they once were. Twenty-thirteen’s comeback, Boogie from Hell, was full of simplistic, mid-paced grooves ala Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson. The kind of grooves both predictable and, to some, head-bobbingly pleasing. Since Boogie from Hell, nothing has changed. The music is more fun than it was in the old days. But, with that, comes cookie-cutter song structures that lack that late ’90s passion.
Case in point: the opening title track of A Million Volt Scream. Now, I don’t know what a “million-volt scream” sounds like,3 but that scream in the opening seconds of this track ain’t it. And, with that, the mood is set for the rest of the record. Most of the old-school shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach of TL takes the backseat to mid-paced, bass-heavy licks that repeat for three-to-five minutes. With this kind of structure, the make-or-break of the song comes down to the chorus. And, in the case of “A Million Volt Scream,” it breaks. This also goes for “1200 Goddamned” and its goddamned cowbell chorus, as well as the unforgettable, play-for-twenty-seconds-and-repeat-for-three-and-a-half-minutes “Vanished Empire.”
On the flip-side, songs like “Creature Grunts,” “Monster Human,” and “Dawn of Lucifer” have choruses with more substance. With a marching tempo and a gritty, singalong chorus, “Monster Human”4 is the album’s undisputed nod to Rob Zombie. On the other end of the spectrum lies the clean, smooth chorus of “Creature Grunts.” This slick chorus offsets its gruff verses as it creeps and chugs along. The best track of the album—note, none of these songs are all that great—is “Dawn of Lucifer.” Though it’s also a repeater, the melodic qualities of the song and addictive, Mushroomhead-like clean chorus makes it the more-unique piece on the disc. Something sorely needed with all the track-to-track similarity.
The rest of the album is rather forgettable. Closer “Rabid Horizon,” and its bluesy groove, takes a few spins to enjoy, but the rest of the album blurs together. Even after listening to this album for two weeks straight. Though I’ve only had these last two weeks to get to know TL and their catalog, the older material is far superior. Bands evolve over time—especially some twenty-five years—but TL‘s chugging, mid-paced, radio-friendly direction doesn’t do it for me. Superevil and Satanic Panic are more engaging if you’re interested in checking out this band. But A Million Volt Scream is A Million Volt Disappointment.