As with Finnish experimentalists Circle, Motorpsycho’s decision to inject hefty doses of hard-rocking Heavy Metal muscle into their blend of classic rock, cosmic Psychedelia and oddball noise-mongering has occasionally left them in an unenviable position: too open-minded and fun-loving for the stern metal masses, who don’t take kindly to bands perceived to be poking fun at their beloved, perpetually adolescent genre, a bit too keen to engage in bouts of high-and-mighty Metal wailing to be taken seriously by chin-stroking art-rockers.
To be fair, the trio’s tongues have at times been parked too firmly in their collective cheek. Deliberately overblown prog-metal epics lasting the better part of a decade aren’t necessarily the most appealing of prospects. A pronouncedly daft album title like ‘Heavy Metal Fruit’, meanwhile, draw unappetising parallels to various stink-bomb parody projects that wound up sniggering at the supposed stupidity of, rather than celebrating the accomplishments of, the style they’re paying homage to.
But make no mistake. ‘Heavy Metal Fruit’ – Motorpsycho’s umpteenth album in a career spanning 20 years, and a definite highpoint of their extended discography – is the type of a diverse yet cohesive bull’s eye that deserves to catapult the Trondheim-based band out of the relative obscurity they’ve languished in outside their native Norway. As with Sunn O)))’s recent tributes to the murkier extremes of Metal, Motorpsycho draw heavily from their most pronounced inspirations – in their case the vintage heavy rock of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath et al – without ever surrendering to their sillier excesses.
Although many of the tracks are practically endless, there are always unexpected twists to justify the none-more-epic running times. The Tony Iommi-worshipping ‘Starhammer’, for example, melts into a breathtakingly beautiful, cosmic glide through the stars courtesy of extraordinary guitarist Hans Magnus Ryan. The 20-odd minute, 4-part suite (!) ‘Gullible’s Travels’, meanwhile, takes a hypnotic detour to tip its cap to the motorik magic of Neu!, as referenced by Circle. Elsewhere, ‘W.B.A.T.’ unleashes a disorientating onslaught of jazzy freakouts, and horns pop in to enrich the high voltage acceleration of ‘X-3 (Knuckleheads In Space)’.
With only the limp ballad ‘Close Your Eyes’ firing blanks, and the majestic ‘The Bomb-Proof Roll and Beyond’ providing an accessible entry point, ‘Heavy Metal Fruit’ deserves to take its rightful place alongside Black Mountain’s debut, Dead Meadow’s ‘Feathers’ and Dungen’s ‘Ta Det Lungt’ as one of the finest, most creatively potent modern interpretations of 70’s hard rock moves.