Honcho's Battle of Wits really didn't seem like anything Scandinavian, based on the cover art and band name anyway. It seems like another South American foray into metal, which is no means a bad thing, those Latins do put out some killer tunes - mostly thrash and power metal - it's just that they aren't really well known for their bouts the stoner category. Ok before I get flack for that, I know there are some great Spanish stoner bands, but come on...Scandinavians are known the world over for they psychedelia and stoner abilities. But I digress; as it turns out Honcho is very Scandinavian, coming from Norway... I guess that would make them Norwegians but I don't know how the name classification thin works from that area.
Anyway back to the actual music; Honcho play an old school version of stoner rock, back when it was mostly known as desert rock. More akin to Kyuss and early Fu Manchu then the more modern era, powered on by Clutch or the more recent Monster Magnet, their music is more rooted in blues rock then anything truly metal. While this in itself isn't a bad thing, by any means, this style may hinder their acceptance into some of stoners biggest fans. I know that I prefer the more modern style of the genre, while the older generation enjoys the music they knew growing up, so the split may be generational in some regards. It's not a major concern to be had, as we all enjoy a bit of crossover, but it's a persistent thought I have whenever I listen to these 'older' bands.
Battle of Wits beings with a flourish, an in-your-face musical assault of jam-oriented grooving rock. The first three tracks are amazing islands within the sea of mediocrity stoner music. The music was solid, the grooves were jammin, and the lyrics/vocals kicked some major ass. If Honcho could have kept this up for the entirety of the album, then we would have something serious to tangle with here, unfortunately this was not the case. I don't know what it is with bands recently that have a great introduction to the album, a solid couple of songs, but then it all falls apart by the end. The second half of Battle of Wits follows this pattern. Don't get me wrong, it still had good songs in it, but it was very back-and-forth between the song quality after track three, "Coupe de Ville" (which reminds me of a Meat Loaf lyric - "But there ain't no Coupe de Ville, Hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box"). Everything after that it literally follows the patter (from my point of view anyway) from good track, bad track, good track, bad track, etc. So there is some work to be done by the band in that regard.
Battle of Wits has some great old-school stoner/desert rock within it's walls. It begins strong, but ends a bit weak, with a couple of flourishes throughout. While it does have some things going for it, and it shows promise for the future, I do have to say that it's nothing over-the-top special. I mean not all albums have to be, I could definitely listen to this one again, and wouldn't mind hearing some of Honcho's older works, but could I join the countless others by putting it on my 'Top 20 for 2010' retroactively? No way. It's a solid release, and a definite throw-back to the 'classic' era of stoner. So if you are a fan of the days-gone-by pick this one up, but if you're like me, and lean a little more on the 'forward and ever onward' outlook of the genre, you might want to save the green for the new Lo-Pan (I've heard great things about that one), for that's a little more my speed.