Through the Eyes of Heathens

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Woe to those who dismissed Sweden's Dozer as distant, perhaps unimportant satellites to the mostly U.S.-centric, late-'90s stoner rock solar system, for here they are: five years beyond that scene's generally accepted heyday, and ten into their career -- and still they orbit, only now exerting the gravitational pull of a major heavenly body upon the smaller bands that lie scattered across the vast stoner rock asteroid belt. Can you dig? In the event you can't, and prefer less colorful descriptive methods, suffice to say that Dozer's fourth album, Through the Eyes of Heathens, cements the band's gradual transition from perceived followers to acknowledged leaders of this perennially beloved subgenre of underground hard rock. In fact, the ten tracks making up Through the Eyes of Heathens almost serve as a "state of the genre" address, boasting a broad cross section of historic stoner rock hallmarks. Take infectiously stripped-down tunes like "Drawing Dead," "Born a Legend," and "The Roof, the River, the Revolver," for instance -- all of them so timeless they simultaneously fit in with the mid-2000s crop of post-stoner heavy blues-rock bands (Halfway to Gone Alabama Thunderpussy, etc.), and those Harley-on-the-highway, heavy groove-rock anthems laid down by Dozer's original contemporaries, Clutch and Fu Manchu. The apocalyptic "Until Man Exists No More" (featuring guest vocals from Mastodon's Troy Sanders) and the light-and-shade extremes of "Days of Future Past" dredge up massive Black Sabbath power chords from stoner rock's sister subgenre, doom, and the epic "Big Sky Theory" delves in neighboring psychedelic and space rock tendencies, while "From Fire Fell" and "Omega Glory" span the sonic evolution from Kyuss' pounding quasi-thrash to Queens of the Stone Age's driving riff-o-rama and quirky falsettos. There's even a total curve ball in "Man of Fire," where jabbing guitars and grungey vocal tones temporarily have the band sounding like Pearl Jam -- weird! In the end, if there's anything truly dating -- or at least geographically specific -- on this album, it's Dozer's obvious disinterest in any of the Southern rock overtones so prevalent among mid-2000s retro rock combos, but they're never really missed here. Rather, Through the Eyes of Heathens offers top-of-the-line stoner rock at a time when it's sorely needed to revitalize the style.

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