The band’s blend of de-tuned Sabbath-esque riffs and Hawkwind-inspired wah-wah-laced psychedelia took the pre-heavy metal hard rock of the early 1970s and transported it to the (then) present day

T

he music business was in a very different place in the early 1990s, which is to say, it was still very much alive. In fact, in the years immediately following the unexpected smash success of Nirvana’s Nevermind, the music industry was riding high. Just as punk rock broke the cycle of ever-more-pretentious, overproduced arena rock in the ’70s, grunge brought rock and roll back from the keyboard-laden hair-band excesses of the ’80s. And one result of Nirvana selling seven million albums was that just about every band that featured a two guitar, bass, and drums lineup got signed to a major label deal. This was the landscape onto which Monster Magnet’s major-label debut, Superjudge, was released 20 years ago today.

The Red Bank, New Jersey band already had one album under their belt, 1991’s Spine of God, which was released on the German label Giltterhouse. The fact that the album was available only as an import meant its audience was limited, but its impact was significant. The band’s blend of de-tuned Sabbath-esque riffs and Hawkwind-inspired wah-wah-laced psychedelia took the pre-heavy metal hard rock of the early 1970s and transported it to the (then) present day, breathing new life into it so that it became more than a simple genre revival.

monster Dave Wyndorf & Co., ca. 1993.

Superjudge, released on A&M records, brought Monster Magnet to the wider audience they deserved—the album was even reviewed in Entertainment Weekly (where it was awarded a B+ rating).

The album opens with the plodding, bombastic “Cyclops Revolution,” with its chorus of “I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive, not you,” before the next song, the Blue Cheer-inspired “Twin Earth,” pushes the album into high gear. 

Singer Dave Wyndorf’s lyrics read like they were torn straight out of the pages of a high school burnout’s notebook. The Hawkwind-esque “Dinosaur Vacume” contains such classic couplets as “Take me to the sunspot, now I wanna go home/Flash on the Citadel having too much fun,” and “Thunder in a tube top, now I wanna get high/Slaves of the mother rock, cut me another line.”

With his raspy growl, Wyndorf half sung, half shouted his lyrics over Ed Mundell’s swirling, space-bound guitar leads, while the rhythm section of Joe Calandra (bass) and Jon Kleiman (drums) engaged in some seriously earthy groove-making.

Their next album, Dopes to Infinity, would propel them further into near rock stardom—the song “Look to Your Orb for the Warning” from that record was featured on the soundtrack of The Matrix—but Superjudge was one of the first major releases of the genre that’s now become known as “stoner rock.” And it’s a name that fits the band well. Monster Magnet’s music has always been of the stoners, by the stoners, and for the stoners.