Review of the Album: FU MANCHU The Return Of Tomorrow

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Established in 1985, with their debut LP, No One Rides for Free, hitting the scene around ten years later, Fu Manchu stands as one of the revered pioneers of stoner rock.

Against all odds, they managed to sustain their energy and excellence until their most recent offering in 2018, Clone of the Universe. Due to various circumstances, it took until now for their much-anticipated follow-up album (aptly named The Return of Tomorrow) to come to fruition. Thankfully, the legendary band does not disappoint. The quartet delivers a compelling array of sun-drenched rock tunes (and even sprinkles in some softer pieces) to reinforce their dominance in the genre.

Still consisting of bassist Brad Davis, vocalist/guitarist Scott Hill, guitarist Bob Balch, and drummer Scott Reeder, Fu Manchu dared to explore new territories on The Return of Tomorrow by creating their first double album. As Hill explained:

“In my music listening experience, I tend to lean towards all heavy tunes or all mellow vibes. While some bands like to mix it up, I prefer a cohesive sound throughout. Therefore, we decided to produce a double album with 7 heavy, fuzzy tracks on one side and 6 mellower tracks on the other side, with each album running around 25-30 minutes. We don’t usually delve into mellow tones in Fu Manchu, but many of the riffs worked well minus the fuzz.”

This division works wonderfully to showcase each facet of the band’s artistry.

Given the band’s signature style, it is crucial that the album excels in its “heavy fuzz songs,” and for the most part, it accomplishes that. Despite resembling their renowned track “Evil Eye” a bit too closely, the lively riffs and rhythms of the opening track “Dehumanize” are undeniably infectious. Similarly, “Loch Ness Wrecking Machine” is more minimalistic yet irresistibly anthemic, featuring a killer guitar solo, while “(Time Is) Pulling You Under” is impressively intricate and unpredictable. Even the simpler and less captivating tracks like “Hands of the Zodiac” and “Roads of the Lowly” still pack a punch.

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The mellower second half of the album arguably shines brighter due to its diversity and freshness. Particularly, the textures and effects on “Solar Baptized” are delightfully murky and psychedelic, flowing at a soothingly leisurely pace. Further on, “What I Need” introduces a beautifully gentle instrumental section halfway through, while the serene closing track “High Tide” unfolds as a spacey (and somewhat jazzy) jam reminiscent of the ‘70s works of Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, The Grateful Dead, and Camel.

The Return of Tomorrow emerges as a consistently exhilarating and praiseworthy record for any stoner rock group, let alone one that has been around for several decades. While not groundbreaking – and with some weaker tracks thrown in – it showcases Fu Manchu at the top of their game. Dividing the album into two distinctive styles was a wise and effective choice, even if there is some crossover that Fu Manchu may not have intended. Overall, it marks a delightful return and serves as a testament to the enduring creativity of Fu Manchu.

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