Much like their Canadian counterparts Black Mountain, who equate their musical prowess to barrels of maple syrup and gravy trains of French Fries, Toronto’s energetic-but-downtrodden quartet Quest For Fire certainly offer something very plentiful that’s beefy, burly, and bigger than life. Unlike the rest of their contemporaries, however, these guys know how to kickstart the engines without any middlemen getting in the way. It may be just me, but Canada in the 2000’s seems to be having its biggest decade of musical output since the 1970’s, which included both Rush and Tom Cochrane of Red Rider fame. History lesson aside, Quest For Fire (by no means avoiding a bad pun) is certainly on a “quest” for much more musical glory. Arming themselves with cryptic guitars, airy vocals, and a penchant for environmental musical aspects, Quest For Fire do fairly well upon its debut release.
The band is made up of several Toronto music veterans, and Quest For Fire jots down in one sitting the abundance of musical experience these guys have built up over the years. The band features Chad Ross and Andrew Moszynski on guitars and vocals (both formerly from the Canadian garage rock band The Deadly Snakes), as well as Mike Maxymuik on drums and Josh Bauman on bass. Still kicking after the demise of all of their former bands, Quest For Fire set themselves up. They took no time to get things down to a science and in the process, got picked up by Tee Pee Records. As fate has it, Quest For Fire certainly brings jolts to the minds of those who have a major affinity for classic rock and psychedelia. Think The Stooges on acid with much longer songs.
The quartet bust out of the gates with the Queens Of The Stone Age send-up “Bison Eyes”. Ross’ vocals are soft and tender, much in the vein of QOTSA frontman Josh Homme’s, which fit perfectly with the chaotic guitars and drums. “Bison Eyes” is reminiscent of a wild and drunken 1970’s basement filled to the brim with beer cans and good memories. For how subtle these guys are, they know how to hypnotize you right away. Chugging 70’s fuzz guitars, thumping basslines, and the constant beat of Maxymuik’s spot on drumming: these basement dwellers shine here. While “Bison Eyes” is a nice little ditty, the band does tend to stretch it a bit and rely on repeating the same progressions over and over again. The solos are sweet, but the variety is a bit lacking. It’s not a bad little opener, and it quickly proves to be the shortest song on the record, clocking in at a mere four minutes.
“Strange Waves” follows next and this is where Quest For Fire abruptly switches gears. After the shoegaze-esque rocker feel of “Bison Eyes,” “Strange Waves” takes a somber and hazy approach in the vein of late 70’s era Neil Young. Ross and company riff on a small jam while combining simple chord progressions that intertwine with each other. Bass-heavy throughout the song, thanks to bassist Josh Bauman, “Strange Waves” lets Ross’ vocals really shine, and his guitar fills fit nicely. However, much like “Bison Eyes”, “Strange Waves” meets the same fate in which Quest For Fire relies too heavily on the same progressions. While Ross’ vocals provide nice stabs of melody over the established progression, as well as harmonica jabs that cut in and out, the progressions get dragged through the mud one too many times. As mentioned before, the band does well in crafting intricate melodies over simple riffs, but it’d be best if they shortened them a bit.
After the thumping demise of “Strange Waves,” the cryptic and mesmerizing “Hawk That Hunts The Walking” appears next. This tune proves to be the best song on the record. Quest For Fire find the perfect blend of stretching out their progressions, as well as making it fresh and crisp, like chicken straight from the oven. Ross and Moszynski stomp on those Big Muff pedals and whistle their guitars until the cows come home. Images of dark clouds, pastures, fields, dark highways, and of course hawks come to mind throughout this song. This is where the band makes it work. Their progressions coincide with Ross’ vocals and build up lots of musical tension. They finally know where to go with this. Heavy, thunderous, and very scenic, “Hawk That Hunts The Walking” hints at much more to come from these guys. This is by far their best tune, clocking in at a hefty nine minutes.
The final three songs, “I’ve Been Trying To Leave,” “You Are Always Loved”, and the finale “Next To The Fire”, all dabble in the formula the band’s been establishing the entire time: long, arduous playing over Ross’ somber vocals. The comparisons to a lighter Queens Of The Stone Age are without a doubt here, as they seem to borrow heavily from their Songs From The Deaf era a little too much. The young Toronto quartet certainly offer something elegant to the table, but the sound seems overdone a bit.
In the band’s obsession with psychedelia, Quest For Fire is great at crafting jams… not so much at songs. While all props are given here in terms of their musical ability, overall Quest For Fire doesn’t blow the doors off anything new that’s already been established. If anything, the torch for stoner rock and garage jams is relit once more. On a final note, this isn’t a bad debut. Far from terrible, but nothing too attention-grabbing, Quest For Fire make a decent effort. The jams are what they are… jams, not songs. In the meantime, enjoy those pancakes and fries because this band’s quest is still going forward. Game on!
Quest For Fire