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5 stars The last trully excellent album. Carries on the sword and sorcery theme of 1975's Warrior album. Based loosely on one of Mike Moorcock's Eternal Champion Incarnations; The albino sorcerer king Elric of Melnibone. A more mainstream rock album than most of HW's albums, it also contains some excellent songwriting - check out the track Elric the enchanter.
Report this review (#25563)
Posted Sunday, January 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars How dare I be so beautiful?

"Chronicle of the black sword" is one of Hawkwind's most creative albums, thanks in no small part to Michael Moorcock's "Elric" stories, on which the album is based.

Many of the tracks feature the familiar sound of Hawkwind's driving pace, and monotone vocals, "Song of the swords", "Sea king", and the wonderful "Needle gun" to name but three. "Zarozinda" finds the band in a much slower, more reflective, are I say beautiful mood.

Of the many Hawkwind albums available, this one stands out as falling in to the recommended listening category. Many of the tracks are included on the excellent DVD of the same name, which offers a superb document of their stage show at the time. The DVD also includes a promo video of "Needlegun".

Report this review (#25564)
Posted Thursday, April 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Jim Garten
Retired Admin & Razor Guru
4 stars Hawkwind's last true progressive rock album; although the emphasis here is on the word 'rock', indeed, this could possibly be cited as the first true 'progressive metal' album.

In a way going back to their '70's roots, and picking up their previous collaborations with Michael Moorcock, this is Hawkwinds first (only?) concept album, dealing with the trials and tribulations of Elric of Melnibone, and his bane, the demon possessed black sword.

Brock's masterstroke here was bringing in unknown youngster Alan Davey on bass guitar, and moving Bainbridge to token synthesisers/backing vocals; Davey's writing input is unknown, but lyrically, this album is more focussed and tighter (no mean feat, given the vast source material of Moorcock's many Elric novels), and apart from my own personal bane 'needle gun' (the only reason I give this album 4 stars, not 5), this is the first Hawkwind album for a long time where you will find yourself listening all the way through time and again.

The tour which accompanied this album saw Hawkwind going into the area of stage shows, dancers, actors, occasional visitations from Moorcock himself on stage to read excerpts from the books, and being able to incorporate many old songs into the story (most notably from 'Warrior On The Edge Of Time) - for this, you need to check out the live album 'Live Chronicles'

Report this review (#25565)
Posted Friday, July 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars There were some time now that Hawkwind didn't release a decent album. Four years since "Sonic Attack" which was IMO their latest good album.

This "Chronicle" takes up with the good old energetic rock for which the band is known. And this is for the best even if this album sounds very much metal ("Song Of The Swords", "The Sea King"). But the band hasn't forgotten about their spacey music. Of course, these tracks are scarce, but they have the merit to exist ("The Pulsing Cavern", the sweet "Zarozina").

With this effort, "Hawkwind" reviews several of their inspirational genres. Some heavy and psychedelic savours during "Elric The Enchanter" (which doesn't enchant me a lot), pure hard-rock ("Needle Gun") their energetic and so typical space rock music ("Sleep Of A Thousand Tears")

But frankly there isn't anything here to write home about. This album just brings back "Hawkwind" in the family of bands who can still produce good albums. In terms of prog, there is very little to remember.

A solid hard-rock album, that's what you'll get. And to be able to listen to one of the best song, you have to wait until the final track "Horn Of Destiny".

Three stars.

Report this review (#168193)
Posted Sunday, April 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars The chronicle of Hawkwind

Hawkwind is one of the very few classic bands that were actually better in the 80's than in the 70's. I have always found Hawkwind's 70's releases noisy, simplistic, and generally sloppy; badly produced, often lacking in melody, and most of the time settled in a repetitive beat with some dull electronic experimentation on top. There are a few exceptions though, and the Levitation album from 1980 is the prime example. I was impressed with Levitation and its well-performed, well-produced, melodic tunes. While nothing else in the vast Hawkwind discography can come even close to the high quality of Levitation - which stands head and shoulders above any other Hawkwind album in my opinion - The Chronicle Of The Black Sword is my second favourite Hawkwind album and a good one in its own right.

The songs of this album are based on hard rocking riffs and vocal melodies and this is actually more of a pure Hard Rock album with spacy interludes than a Space Rock or Prog Rock album per se. The interludes make this album varied and the conceptual lyrics make it interesting. The quality of the music remains pretty consistent throughout and no single track stands out as more powerful than the others.

One of Hawkwind's best and most memorable albums

Report this review (#229453)
Posted Saturday, August 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
2 stars Hawkwind Goes ZZ Top

A few experiments aside, Hawkwind was always most enjoyable when they just flatly rocked out. On this album everything is sacrificed for that. They go through the motions by a bunch of 4-minute 4/4 songs and bring off something that sounds familiarly close to how ZZ Top sounded in those days. Check out Needle Gun...

I actually disliked this album for quite a while; all songs are fairly predictable blues-rock tunes in a glossy 80's production. There's also little or nothing of the Hawkwind trademark spacey feel about it. Horn of Destiny would be the only track where they take a little time to expand the narrow approach of the album by adding some typical Gong slide guitar.

So, there's little of interest here for people who like their music more complicated and elaborate. Nevertheless, this is their most enjoyable studio album since Levitation from 1980. With the right mindset and expectations, chances are you might enjoy this.

Report this review (#243248)
Posted Tuesday, October 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Although not as profound, Chronicle Of The Black Sword echoes Hawkwind`s 1975 tour de force Warrior On The Edge Of Time a decade later and brings scifi / fantasy master Michael Moorcock back into the fold.

Based largely on the exploits of anti hero Elric of Melniboné on an alternate Earth who first appeared in the 1961 Moorcock novella " Dreaming City ", Chronicle of the Black Sword is harder driving and really rocks it out for the most part but nonetheless nods back to Hawkwind formulas of the past. Don`t expect anything as compelling as Magnu or Assault & Battery / The Golden Void but it contains many Hawkwind hallmarks. There are spacey interludes ( The Pusling Caverns, Chaos Army, The Demise ), a cool ballad as only hawkwind could conjure ( Zarozinia, who becomes Elric`s wife ), a short but compelling atmospheric ambient / electronic mind trip ( Shade Gate ) and some reminders of the Quark Strangeness And Charm era ( Elric The Enchanter ).

Sevral CD re-issues have appeared with live bonus tracks but I would recommend the most recent June 2009 Atomhenge release which includes the EP Earth Ritual Review as a bonus which was originally released in `83 and has been long since deleted and contains four tracks, Night Of The Hawks ( with Lemmy ) Green Finned Demon, Dream Dancers and the catchy Dragons And Fables, which were only available on anthologies such as Ambient Anarchists and others.

My biggest dissappointment when the album was released back in `85 was that, given the depth of the Elric character and the number of Elric adventures that Moorcock had penned up to that point I thought there was more potential and possibilities for a 3 album epic blowout. One track, Needle Gun doesn`t even really have anything to do with the Elric sagas. Needle gun refers to another Moorcock character, an anarchistic secret agent, Jerry Cornelius who has no respect for authority and gets into jams. Nonetheless a great harder edged Hawkwind track. In fact this whole quasi-concept album is arguably Hawkwind`s finest recording of the eighties despite not exploiting the full potential of the subject matter , although it was expanded on in the tour and subsequent live album, Live Chronicles.

With an unstable lineup in the early eighties and no studio album for almost 3 years it seemed that the Hawks were heading for a monumental catastrophe. But it seemed that the addition of bassist / vocalist Alan Davey ( who had sent a tape to Dave Brock and hired almost on the spot ) and the appearance of this remarkable album seemed to save the day turning back the clock to the classic years of albums such as the already metioned Warrior On The Edge Of Time and The Hall Of The Mountain Grill.

Highly recommended Hawkwind album with alternate cover art, the original having more to do with the subject matter than the one pictured here. Go Nuts freak out. This IS Hawkwind.

Report this review (#247253)
Posted Friday, October 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars After a tumultuous period of lineup changes, Hawkwind returned with another stab at a concept album based on the writing of Michael Moorcock, a long-time pal of the band who'd returned the favour by having them pop up in his stories from time to time. The band had tried such a thing before with Warrior On the Edge of Time, but whilst that album had focused more on exploring the general themes of Moorcock's work, this time around the band went with a more narrative route, telling the story of one of Moorcock's most famous characters - Elric of Melnibone.

The album offers a markedly different listen to the delivery of similar material on Live Chronicles, which documents the accompanying concert tour. On early CD versions, the songs are subjected to the cold space metal treatment which had hampered the band's sound on the preceding albums Sonic Attack and Choose Your Masques, whereas the live version presents warmer renditions of the songs and in general sees the band moving back to something closer to their classic sound than the comparatively more stable studio offering.

That said, the recent Atomhenge reissue has teased out the hidden depths of the studio renditions and revealed a clever neo-space rock sound which benefits from the extra focus afforded by the album concept. So I am inclined to see this as actually a mild return to form, but caution listeners to pay close heed to the respectful Atomhenge handling of the material.

Report this review (#583841)
Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars "Chronicle of the Black Sword" is another killer album with weird conceptual content from the creative mind of Michael Moorcock, and remains a fan favourite. Much of the material is available in live format on "Live Chronicles", but the studio album has garnered a cult following over the years

'Song of the Swords' is a fiery start with strong vocals and lyrics about the main concept of the sorcerer and the swordsman; "Take up the sword and take up me, the Chaos Lord's answer is to be, Your path is chosen, you have no choice, Come join us now! thus spake the voice. It's paradise".

'Shade Gate' is an instrumental with 80s retro synth melody ending on a zither sting. 'Sea King' has good echoed vocals and pulsing rhythm, spacey effects and a distorted guitar riff. The lead break is effective and the Hawkwind interstellar sound effects.

'Pulsing Cavern' is a transitional piece with ambient mellotron and a heartbeat rhythmic pulse. It leads into 'Elric the Enchanter'. The strong beat and echo on vocals is classic Hawkwind. The lyrics are terrific telling the tale of Elric's exploits; "Sprawling in a Ruby Throne, His head cupped in his hands, The Lord of Dragons, Elric's thoughts, Were of quests to far-off lands, The Black Sword was at his side, Murmuring in its scabbard cold, Waiting for the moment to arrive, To drink the very essence of souls." The instrumental lead break is spacey guitar and weird effects. The riff changes into a delightful half time feel which is ominous and doomy; "He did not know that the sword he'd hold, Would turn his priceless empire into fool's gold, The truth, the shadow of the sword will hide, 'Til it's too late, a traitor at his side." The harmonies are excellent and this is perhaps the highlight of the album.

'Needle Gun' is one of the more popular tracks featuring on compilations. It was strange hearing this in context of the other tracks rather than on compilations. The sound is a straight 4/4 guitar rocker, with infectious melody and anti-tattoo lyrics; "Hear my laughter in your head, It's a pity, it's a shame nothing's been said, It's a vaccination joy with the ultimate death toy, It's gonna make you run, needle gun." It feels more like a typical heavy rock anthemic song than a space rock epic, but still fits in well with the album content.

'Zarozinia' features Brock's great vocals on the slow space ballad, with wavering synth tones, minimal bass and refreshing wind effects. The lyrics are quite beautiful; "Fire of destiny, Fire of reality, Zarozinia, The burning of flesh, Flames loving caress, Zarozinia, Water from a thousand tears, Feeling of a thousand years, Flow over me." One of the highlights of the album.

'The Demise' features a weird whispered narrative and otherworldy screams sets the scene. The preternatural soundscapes segue into 'Sleep of 1000 Years' with Brock's familiar multi-tracked vocals and a driving riff. A thumping bassline and spacey lead guitar augment the atmospherics.

'Chaos Army' begins with motorik pulsing sonics and weird percussion, until it breaks into a riffing guitar for 'Horn of Destiny'. Brock's vocals are sung in trademark style with some gruelling lyrics; "Many with madness in their eyes, stare gibbering at the white-hot skies, foul birds circle overhead shadowing the living and the dead." The lead guitar swells and sporadic percussion are effective in the lengthy instrumental section.

This is a concept album in the same spirit of classic Hawkwind of the 70s and is a welcome return to form. It is one to seek out though not easy to find. The search will be worth it as it is one of Hawkwind's greatest 80s albums.

Report this review (#606565)
Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars At the time this was probably HAWKWIND's best album since "Levitation" from 1980. "The Chronicle Of The Blacksword" was released late in 1985. Nik Turner left the band early that same year after band members grew weary of his stage act. His departure brought a focus to the concept album that they decided to do on Michael Moorcock's "Elric" series of books from the 60's. Dave Brock read through them more than once in order to come up with a story-line that would fit into a single album and be performed live in an hour and a half stage show. Alan Davey would later comment : "We mixed the sound of "Warrior" with the technology of "Church Of Hawkwind" and came up with something very special." If there's one complaint from yours truly it's that this music is often too accessible. "Needle Gun" is a song that I told Tom Ozric that I was tired of after one listen.

"Song Of The Swords" kicks into gear quickly as the vocals join in. The bass is fantastic throughout this uptempo rocker. "Shade Gate" is an instrumental of spacey sounds as the birds chirp. Synths come in and pulsate. "The Sea King" is such a good song with that heavy sound as the vocals join in. "The Pulsing Cavern" is an instrumental with deep pulsating sounds and the sound of water can be heard dripping. It becomes quite spacey over top.

"Elric The Enchanter" is another great track. Very catchy with vocals. I love the instrumental section before 3 minutes and the vocals that follow. The guitar is so good as well. "Needle Gun" is way too accessible for my tastes. My least favourite by far. "Zarozinia" makes up for it. Spacey waves can be heard as mournful vocals join in reminding me of early HAWKWIND. "The Demise" Is very short as we hear an explosion and spoken words. "Sleep Of A Thousand Tears" is a catchy and energetic song with vocals. A nice prolonged instrumental section takes us to the end. "Chaos Army" is a short piece with deep pulsating sounds and more. "Horn Of Destiny" ends it in an uptempo manner with vocals. Gotta love the beat here. It's building after 2 minutes and the vocals return. Nice. Lots of percussion 4 1/2 minutes in after the vocals have stopped.

A low 4 stars no doubt but I really enjoyed this.

Report this review (#639329)
Posted Thursday, February 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog Team
3 stars I have to declare something and that is the fact that I am not what you'd consider a true Hawkwind fan. I'm more of an occasional fan, delicately tipping my toes into the pool of Hawks and then diving in head first but only in certain areas. I have discovered that I am a fan of Hawkwind's 80'soutput. I do consider Levitation being one of the greatest albums ever made and I adore The xenon codex, thoroughly enjoying every second of it.

Now, that being said I fins The chronicle of the black sword not disappointing but not up to par with some other albums of the decade's recordings. As a whole I love the album. Everything visible about it is really, really thrilling and intriguing. Everything from the great cover with it's different shades of blue, to the albums's fantasy themes and the titles of the songs and well, the whole package. Visually meaning. Then there's the songs in themselves. The rockier side of TCOTB I do not love. I like the songs, for sure, but it's liking more than loving. As far as I'm concerned I could skip them everytime and go for the softer, gentler, more ambient stuff. On Levitation the spacey hard rock seemed truly vibrant and committed, energetic and really entertaining. On TCOTB they're sometimes on the verge of being slightly easy, meaning they are (at least at times) kind of boogie-ish in a way Whitesnake do it, filling the album with excellent rockers and then finishing off with a couple of tired boogie or blues numbers. It's not quite that bad, actually. The worst I can say about the rock-songs are that they're not the best Hawkwind ever made but at least they entertain in that 80's sort of way. And to top things off the vocals seem to be sung by a german. Not that it really matters but I get the feeling I'm listening to Eloy (which is great thing in itself) and not the truly british Hawkwind when listening to Song of the swords, for instance. Let's put it this way, they are alright but nothing more. Except Needle gun which is a storming track I really enjoy.

The ambient songs, like The pulsing cavern or Zarozinia, gets my votes though. There is something about the way Hawkwind (or Brock) seem to stir up a brew of electronic landscapes able to really get my mind going far into the vast galaxies of my imagination. Just like on the later Xenon codex it's like floating through space, visualising everything from reality to fantasy, history, presence and future all wrapped up in one. The pulsing cavern is a great travelling song, along with Zarozinia, setting music to your journey in the most excellent way. I guess that the ambient side of Hawkwind bears resemblence to Tangerine Dreams output from the same time.

In short I'd say that the album is really good, just not great. It has highs and lows but it never reaches the abyss. It's interesting, entertaining and the lyrics are great.

Report this review (#906018)
Posted Monday, February 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars "ElRocktronic" of Melniboné

After the aborted "Earth Ritual" project two years before, HAWKWIND preferred to release an entirely new concept album (mostly) based on Michael Moorcock's character Elric of Melniboné. First studio LP since 1982's mediocre "Choose Your Masques", the record alternates punchy space rock/metals songs with more or less anecdotal ambient electronic passages. Although uneven, the overall result is rather pleasant, due to the presence of the hard rock compositions typical of the Hawks.

The first half of the record is the most interesting. The space metal opener "Song Of The Swords" is quite ferocious and epic, in the style of "Night of the Hawks". The electronic dreamy "Shade Gate" displays a contemplative landscape, whereas the sharp and aggressive "The Sea King" is another catchy rock song of the record, with added aquatic sound effects. Calm comes back with the ambient "The Pulsing Cavern", followed by the nice "Elric The Enchanter", a space rock/metal piece with a slight FM feel, reminiscent of "Sonic Attack".

Released as a single, "Needle Gun" is a double intruder here. First, it does not refer to the mythology of Elric but to another character from Moorcock, Jerry Cornelius. Second, and more important, this quite repetitive and irritating hard rock'n'roll seems musically out of place compared to the rest of the album. The weakest track of the record. In contrast, the melancholic space ballad "Zarozinia" is refreshing and enjoyable. "The Demise" is another atmospheric transition for "Sleep Of A Thousand Tears", a cool powerful space metal piece. Finally, the short messy "Chaos Army" introduces the strange futuristic floating hard rock "Horn Of Destiny".

The bonus instrumental "Arioch" is in fact more interesting than these last tracks. Unusual from HAWKWIND, this hard jazz/rock tune has similitudes with RUSH's "YYZ".

This concept album is a little overrated: the composition quality is unequal and the electronic pauses are not always interesting. Despite these few negative points - and a slight FM approach - the space rock passages are powerful and (mostly) very cool. Furthermore, the general ambiance is quite unique for its variety and mood changes, mixing heroic fantasy pieces with science-fiction sonorities.

For all these reasons, "The Chronicle Of The Black Sword" remains one of HAWKWIND's best studio efforts from the 80's, an essential listen for every Hawkfan, as well as a welcomed ambitious surprise for the space rock lover in the deserted mid-eighties.

NOTE: Certain remastered versions of this album includes the 1983 EP "Night of the Hawks".

Report this review (#1560303)
Posted Monday, May 9, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars Hawkwind - The Chronicle of the Black Sword (1985)

This album is often hailed as the only eighties record (except for Levitation) Hawkwind made that really hits the spot. It has some interesting light heavy metal sounds with typical eighties drums. The lyrical context is said to be a continuation of the Warrior on the Egde of Time period. Between most spacey metal tracks we find electronic interludes that aren't integrated at all. They are just there. This is something Hakwind would greatly improve live and on some of their nineties albums like Electric Tepee and Alien 4.

Back to this album. Some of the metal riffs are quite catchy and a few guitar solo's with reverb sound quite interesting. The vocals don't stand out for a Hawkwind album, but they aren't too bad either. The overly simplistic drums and the poor mixing are perhaps its greatest weaknesses. Had the guitars sounded louder and more dangerous this album might have been twice as fun to listen to. The overall production leaves much to be desired as well, though stylistically it has some interesting ideas. On this record Hawkwind isn't that far removed from Sowhere in Time / Seventh Son era Iron Maiden.

One must admit that songs like Song of the Swords, The Sea King and Horn of Destiny could make great live tracks. That is why I would put my money on the Live Chronicles live album of 1986. For the studio version of The Chronicle of the Black Sword itself I can't reach the good/non-essential mark, this would mainly be interesting for fans of the band.

Report this review (#1643736)
Posted Thursday, November 17, 2016 | Review Permalink

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