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HAWKWIND-4


HAWKWIND 

"Into the Woods"

By Dark Starr

I have to make full disclosure here and say that Hawkwind is one of my favorite bands. In fact, they make my top three. So, you have to understand that bias when I say that they have delivered another incredible album. This is almost certainly going to make my "best of 2017" list. 

Hawkwind have an almost unparalleled catalog in terms of number of releases. It has to make it hard to keep things fresh and new, while still maintaining that Hawk sound. Yet, they manage to do it really well here. On the one hand, there are sections of this that call to mind albums like Chronicle of the Black Sword, Xenon Codex and Electric Teepee. Yet, it breaks new ground, too. In fact, they even have a song that's heavily based on country or bluegrass music. It sounds like a strange combination, but it works. All in all, this is a worthy entry into the Hawkwind repertoire. 

The title track starts the album, and piano opens it with a very classical approach. Suddenly the cut bursts out into something that's almost heavy metal. It's still recognizable as Hawkwind, but it really has some seriously heavy crunch built into it. As it works to the song proper, it makes me think of something that would fit well onto Chronicle of the Black Sword.  They include some changes as it continues, but this really is dark and heavy throughout. Yet, it's instantly recognizable as Hawkwind. In fact, this is really a new Hawkwind classic. 

Mellower keyboard based sounds open "Cottage In The Woods." The vocals come in over the top. It's not so much a ballad, though. It's more of a mellower rocker because of the energy. It's another that has a real classic Hawkwind sound, but with a modern edge to it. As the guitar rises up to take a more prominent role, this really starts to rock. It drops down to a weird spoken section with the vocals from the previous section dropped way back into the background. Keyboards take over for a bit, but those voices (still in the background) come back out before it transitions into the next piece. 

Less than a minute long, "The Woodpecker" is weird keyboard sounds and effects with a pecking sound, a bird and more. 

"Have You Seen Them" is next. Powering in with a more mainstream rocking sound, there are still recognizable Hawkwind elements here. This is the first song released as an official video, and there is a reason for that. It's the most likely to appeal to work for people who aren't already hooked on Hawkwind. There is enough here for the loyal followers, though. It has some meaty elements. I love some of the hard rocking Hawk-jams that are built into this thing. 

Another that's very much old-school Hawkwind, "Ascent" has great wooshing keyboards. I dig the bass work on it. There is some notable acoustic guitar work, too. It's essentially a space rock ballad. 

After a keyboard based opening that's full on Hawkwind, "Space Ship Blues" launches into a jam that could best be described as "Hawkwind Hoedown." This is an energetic rocker with a lot of country and bluegrass in the mix. I think that's a new one for the band. I swear I hear banjo, but given that no one is credited with playing that instrument, I have to guess that it's sampled. The lyrics make me think of "Silver Machine." This is a fun number. While it's odd and different, it works really well. Sure, there are plenty of Hawkwind trademarks built into this to make sure you know who it is, but it's really a downhome number in a lot of ways. The mix of Hawk sounds with country music is almost equal. Keys end it in ambient ways. 

Next up is "The Wind."  Weird sound effects and keyboard sounds serve as the backdrop for the spoken vocals. After a while some guitar joins. They turn it out to more of a rocking sound after a time as it carries forward. There are some sung vocals that are set far back in the mix further down the road. This is instantly recognizable as Hawkwind, feeling like something that might have fit on Electric Teepee or Xenon Codex. 

Now, "Vegan Lunch" is more of a straight ahead rocker. Again, it's decidedly Hawkwind. It's familiar, but a nice change for the flow of the album. It shifts mid-track to a mellower jam with some cool bass work. Then we are taken out into a different rocking mode. Sound effects are heard at the end of the piece. 

Swirling keyboards a bit like Hawkwind meets Synergy start "Magic Scenes." The cut works out from there in a more rocking motif. The guitar edge on this is crunchy. The keyboards soar over the top in fine style. The vocals are classic Hawkwind. 

Seeming almost like a continuation of the previous number, "Darkland" is a mellow instrumental cut that features waves of keyboards with some great acoustic guitar driving it. It's sedate and quite pretty. 

Driving, rocking and classic in nature, "Wood Nymph" is another killer Hawkwind tune. There are some really powerful, soaring sections to this. Sound effects, keys and other elements create the backdrop on "Deep Cavern." It is one of the spoken pieces that are so common with Hawkwind. It's suitably strange, yet also effective. 

"Magic Mushroom" is the album's closer. The instrumental (there are some vocals at the end, but they seem like just stage talk that's been added to it) is nine and a half minutes in length, and they use that time to really stretch out and explore. It fires in fast paced and rocking with distinct Hawkwind sounds. It's a powerhouse cut that really works well. I dig the guitar soloing and keyboard sounds on this thing. Around the four minute mark this instrumental turns out to some strange lines of music that seem to stab at the air. Still, it's trademark Hawkwind. It reminds me of something from Xenon... or Teepee... again. It shifts to more traditional space music from there, but continues driving with that hard rocking yet electronic tinged edge. It drops to the rhythm section for a bit, but then powers out to an almost heavy metal vibe. As it works out from there I can hear something that reminds me a bit of the "Peter Gunn" theme song. As it continues to evolve there is a bit of stage sound at the end, again it feels added in, as this is not a live recording. Then we get a drop back to percussive territory along with sound effects (in particular a rooster crowing) to end. 

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www.hawkwind.com