Album review: Fu Manchu – Clone Of The Universe

As an artist, if the number of albums you’ve released is in the double digits, it’s safe to assume you’re doing pretty well. Known for their saturated, fuzzy guitar riffs and driving rhythms, Fu Manchu have been a stoner-rock fixture for the last 20 years. Their 12th album Clone of the Universe follows on from 2014’s Gigantoid but sees a somewhat minimal approach with only seven tracks. It’s quality that counts though so have they managed to deliver another barnstorming collection of head-nodding songs to blast out of your car stereo?

Opening track “Intelligent Worship” certainly starts things off that way with an up-tempo groove that definitely got me tapping away on the steering wheel on the drive into work. As with previous album Gigantoid, the production has been stripped back to the bare essentials of fuzz, fuzz and more fuzz on the guitars along with thundering bass and a big, big drum sound.

As any fan of the band would expect, Scott Hill’s vocal style of more-than-speaking-but-not-really-singing is just as recognisable as its always been, but still lends itself a certain confidence and authority especially second track “(I’ve been) Hexed”.

It’s not until the album’s middle section of “Slower Then Light” and “Nowhere Left to Hide” that Fu Manchu delves into their sludgy, slow burning Black Sabbath-style skillset. It’s not something that’s ever been my favourite style of their repertoire but for some die-hard fans of the band it’s an essential part of their music. Title track “Clone of the Universe” comes next and although it showcases a nice mid-tempo riff, it suddenly jacks the pace up for a guitar solo and then dramatically slows down. I’m sure they’ll be those that love it, although for me sudden and jarring tempo changes tend to ruin a song and suggest a lack of imagination, but hey-ho perhaps I’m too picky. Final track “Il Mostro Atomico” is every bleary-eyed stoner’s dream clocking in at 18 minutes of thick-as-tar riffs that start off slow and sludgy only to evolve into driving rhythms and then on to a smoky, mid-tempo groove accompanied by bongos and other assorted percussion.

There’s some great work on Clone of the Universe but also a bit of filler (which I didn’t think would be possible on an album only 7 tracks long). Plainly put, there’s a bit of something for any “Fu” fan on here but some of the spaced out tracks in the middle and end of the record will test the patience of some that just want good hooks and some immediacy to their music. If you’ve been following Fu Manchu since the 90s then you’re likely to get on better with this album than others. For most, it’ll likely be a case of downloading a few of the tracks or adding them to your Spotify playlists and that’s it. There isn’t a real stand out memorable track but it’ll fit in with the rest of their catalogue without too much fanfare, which is both partly a good and bad thing.





Author: Steve, Bristol store