Expectations were high when word first broke about Enigma Experience. As the brainchild of guitarist Niklas Källgren (Dango of Truckfighters), Enigma Experience also features Oscar Johansson (the former drummer for both Truckfighters and Witchcraft) and vocalist Maurice Adams (of Norwegian bands Breed and Motorfinger).
Having members of Truckfighters and Witchcraft on your roster is big enough news in this arena, and Maurice Adams adds surprising flare with a voice that sounds remarkably like Chris Cornell.
Enigma Experience is brimming with individual success and talent, but that brings us to a significant problem for this review: Whenever a supergroup forms, it’s challenging to remain objective while reviewing the new material. Every musician brings the weight of their resume with them, and comparisons to their past work are inevitable.
Those comparisons are nearly mandatory with a band like Enigma Experience and their debut album, Question Mark. With Dango at the helm, the instrumentation and composition on Question Mark are nearly carbon copies of his work with Truckfighters, especially when it comes to the guitar tones.
In fact, if you threw Truckfighters vocalist Oskar Cedermalm (Ozo) onto this record, it would sound like another Truckfighters album.
These obvious connections to Truckfighters work both for and against Enigma Experience and Question Mark.
On the positive side, the music is immediately accessible for Truckfighter fans (though they may need a moment to adjust to a Chris Cornell soundalike on the microphone).
On the negative side, Enigma Experience has endured flak for not exactly replicating the Truckfighters blueprint on this album—an unfair judgement for a band that should be examined as a completely separate entity.
With all of that out of the way, I’ll do my best to remain objective through the rest of this review, allowing Enigma Experience to be Enigma Experience, Truckfighters to be Truckfighters, Witchcraft to be Witchcraft, Breed to be Breed, and Motorfinger to be Motorfinger.
About Enigma Experience
Enigma Experience and Fuzzorama Records released Question Mark on November 13, 2020.
The album credits go to:
Niklas Källgren (Dango) – Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals
Oscar Johansson (Pezo) – Drums
Maurice Adams – Vocals
Dango also produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered the album.
Question Mark Review
Track One: Realityline
Opening with “Realityline” is a bold move, as it’s nearly 11 minutes long (more than a fifth of the total album). Fortunately, “Realityline” is a high-energy, fuzz-filled adventure that sets the pace for the rest of Question Mark.
From the first few notes, the connections back to Truckfighters are obvious, as Dango seems to use the same setup for the guitar and bass as he and Ozo use on their work throughout the Truckfighters discography.
Track Two: Lonewolf
“Lonewolf” was the album’s first single—and for good reason. “Lonewolf” packs plenty of energy in just over four minutes.
Track Three: Mighty Mind
After the pulsing energy of “Lonewolf,” “Mighty Mind” is a much softer track. Here, Dango exchanges his typical guitar tones for some acoustic chords layered with some soft, clean electric guitar work.
Although “Mighty Mind” lacks the typical fuzz present throughout this album, it is a standout track.
Track Four: Corruption
“Corruption” opens on a drumroll that leads directly into a blast of fuzz. In “Corruption,” Enigma Experience cleverly uses occasional rests to surprising effect, using the silence to punch up the rest of the song.
At times, “Corruption” could have spanned into the Drone/Doom Rock arena (especially since Adams lowers his voice on this track), but a persistent bassline propels the song forward through these moments.
Track highlight: The dual guitars around 5:30.
Track Five: Equilibrium
“Equilibrium” has a playful start. In fact, if it wasn’t for the effects pedal on the bass, it would sound a little like a Witchrider track (another band on the Fuzzorama label).
One noteworthy moment: “Equilibrium” ends with a vocal homage to Chris Cornell’s conclusion to “Show Me How to Live,” as Adams holds the final syllable for the word “equilibrium.”
Track Six: In My Mind My Secret Place
With its quiet acoustic beginning, “In My Mind My Secret Place” may remind Truckfighters fans of the conclusions to “Mastodont” (Universe) or “Majestic” (Mania).
The build on this track is captivating. When the bass comes in, the recording is raw enough that you can hear Dango’s fingertips scratching along the strings—a great complement to the acoustic guitar.
** Spoiler Alert **
I never thought I would have a spoiler alert on an album review, but here we are.
One of the best parts of the entire album comes from the massive drop around 3:40—a drop that comes immediately after a guitar solo that’s so raw, you can hear the extra notes produced by Dango’s fingers simply by pressing and releasing the strings.
Track Seven: The Z
“The Z” is a short track designed as an introduction to “The Zone.” Jazzy in its delivery and composition, “The Z” is a captivating lead into the final track.
Track Eight: The Zone
“The Zone” was the second single for Question Mark. One of the best songs on the album, “The Zone” is even better when you listen along with the backstory in mind: “The Zone” is about trying to cope with the world—a topic inspired by Dango’s son, who lives with autism.
Pros: We have to start with Maurice Adams. His voice is a welcomed addition to the Fuzz genre, offering a fresh take on vocals in Stoner Rock. Combining this voice with Dango’s signature brand of fuzz allows Enigma Experience to explore unexpected territory.
When viewed as its own entity (outside of the Truckfighters lens), Question Mark is packed with awesome and original moments. The sledgehammer of fuzz on “In My Mind My Secret Place” is an incredible transition from the lo-fi guitar solo immediately before it. “Corruption” manages to create tension through silence, and “Mighty Mind” is simply a beautiful song on a fuzz-drenched album.
Ultimately, Enigma Experience is a worthy side-project for fans of Truckfighters to enjoy.
Cons: As I said at the top, Question Mark sounds so much like a Truckfighters album, it’s easy to forget it’s not a Truckfighters album.
That is—until you actually sit down and really listen to the songs.
But before we get there, let’s take a minute to discuss what Truckfighters does right. As a band, Truckfighters excels in two areas: writing great grooves and writing emotive tracks. If they aren’t grooving on a great riff, they’re brimming with emotion (like on “Mastadont”). If they’re not brimming with emotion, they’re grooving on a great riff (like on “Desert Cruiser”). At their absolute best, Truckfighters do both simultaneously (like on “Manhattan Project”).
Much of their success is thanks to Dango’s guitar work, but it’s also because this guitar work is paired with Ozo’s vocal delivery.
Why bother spending so much time talking about Truckfighters during an Enigma Experience review (especially after opening this article saying we should avoid discussing Truckfighters)? Dango and Co. have made a deliberate decision to sound like Truckfighters. As such, the two bands are undeniably linked.
Stacked against each other, Truckfighters comes out on top.
Sure, pairing Dango with Adams instead of Ozo is an interesting (and definitely worthwhile) experiment, and the entire album is elevated by the band’s performance on tracks like “The Zone,” but the album struggles in certain areas when observed alongside its sonic cousins—the entire Truckfighters catalog.