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Hawkwind Sonic Attack album cover
3.19 | 109 ratings | 10 reviews | 8% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1981

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Sonic Attack (4:47)
2. Rocky Paths (4:00)
3. Psychosonia (2:32)
4. Virgin Of The World (4:32)
5. Angels Of Death (5:42)
6. Living On A Knife Edge (4:48)
7. Coded Languages (4:50)
8. Disintegration (1:05)
9. Streets Of Fear (5:19)
10. Lost Chances (5:44)

Total time 43:19

Bonus track on 1996 CD reissue:
11. Trans-Dimensional Man (5:05) - last 60 seconds filled by silence

Bonus CD from 2010 remaster:
1. Angels Of Death (Single a-side) (3:40)
2. Transdimensional Man (Single b-side) (4:00)
3. Sonic Attack (First Version) (3:30) *
4. Out Of The Void (2:07) *
5. Lost Chances (Extended Version) (7:08) *
6. Streets Of Fear (Alternate Version) (5:49) *
7. Devilish Dirge (3:52) *
8. The End Of Earth City (Demo) (6:29) *
9. The Speed Of Light (Transdimensional Man Demo) (6:45) *
10. Living On A Knife Edge (Extended Version) (7:57) *

* Previously unreleased

Total time 51:17

Line-up / Musicians

- Michael Moorcock / lead vocals (7)
- Dave Brock / vocals (5,6,8-11), guitars, keyboards, synth
- Huw Lloyd-Langton / lead guitar, vocals (2)
- Harvey Bainbridge / bass, keyboards, synth, vocals (1,3,4)
- Martin Griffin / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Jim Mountjoy with Andrew Christian (art direction)

LP RCA ‎- RCALP 6004 (1981, UK)

CD Emergency Broadcast System ‎- EBSCD123 (1996, UK) With a bonus track
2xCD Atomhenge ‎- ATOMCD 2019 (2010, UK) 24-bit remaster by Ben Wiseman + bonus CD w/ 10 tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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HAWKWIND Sonic Attack ratings distribution

(109 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(8%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(30%)
Good, but non-essential (41%)
Collectors/fans only (17%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

HAWKWIND Sonic Attack reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars In the event of a sonic advice from Hawkwind??

Not a bad collection of tracks, many of which were live favourites.

The title track is an amusing "announcement" of the action to be taken in the event of an attack, such as "bringing all bodies to orgasm simultaneously". The track had of course already appeared on "Space ritual" so I'm not sure why it was felt necessary to re-record it for this album. It is amusing, but the song does not bear repeated listening.

The best track is actually the last one, "Trans dimensional man", which is pure space rock. The rest are mainly ambient links instrumentals, and pop based rock tracks, nothing really outstanding but on the plus side, mainly listenable.

Dave Brock and Harvey Bainbridge share both vocal and keyboards duties, while Michael Moorcock contributes some of the lyrics, and sings on "Coded languages". Good, but with so many albums to chose from, not among the best of the Hawkwind collection.

Review by Proghead
4 stars How many bands can you think of that's been recording since the beginning of the 1970s entered the 1980s and still make excellent music? Not that many. By 1981, many big name prog rock bands either went pop (like GENESIS) or ceased to exist (YES, ELP). This was also an era where a new version of KING CRIMSON surfaced and gave us "Discipline" that has a much more New Wave feel than what you expected from this band, in the process of alienating a few fans (but to be fair, that album received lots of praise still).

Of course, HAWKWIND not being a major act, refused to make compromises. "Sonic Attack", released late in 1981, is not one of those millions and one useless bootlegs and compilations on obscure labels, but an album of brand-new compositions (with the title track being a remake). Tim Blake and Ginger Baker were gone, with drummer Martin Griffin returning. Dave Broke is here as always. This time, the band went hog-wild on synthesizers, bassist Harvey Bainbridge now doubled on synths, demonstrating he was more than a capable electronic musician (enough where when he left the band in the 1990s, he released a handful of solo albums in the '90s). Novelist Michael Moorcock (who collaborated with HAWKWIND in the past on occasions) even provides some narrations and even vocals.

This album has very strong Orwellian themes, with songs that had themes on surveillance of the citizens, technology taking over, mind control, it's obvious that this band had some real concerns about how society was moving, since this was 1981, during the Thatcher and Reagan-era. I think this album is rather underrated, with some rather exciting and energetic compositions, and a much more trippy album than their previous offering, "Levitation". "Levitation" is downright tame compared with "Sonic Attack"! The album opens up with the title track, which of course, a remake of a Robert Calvert-era spoken dialog piece that dated back to "Space Ritual". Since Calvert was not in the band by this point, it was Harvey Bainbridge doing the spoken dialog, in which he shouts. A rather effective and disturbing piece. "Rocking Paths" is an energetic and exciting rocking piece dominated by guitar while "Psychosonia" is a strange experiment. "Living on a Knife Edge" features lyrics protesting surveillance. "Coded Languages" features Michael Moorcock shouting about rebelling against the establishment, and in the second half he sings. This piece demonstrates that he shouldn't sing as he's not that great of a singer. Some other goodies include "Lost Chances", and "Trans-Dimensional Man". "Virgin of the World" is a strange electronic experiment from Harvey Bainbridge that really trips me out. Since I have the Griffin CD reissue, there might be a couple of bonus cuts that might not be on the original RCA LP, but I'm not sure. My suspicion is "Virgin of the World" was really of their following album, "The Church of Hawkwind" (1982) (I hadn't heard that album yet, and I only own the CD to "Sonic Attack"), because the CD titled the song, "Virgin of the World ("From the Church" of HAWKWIND)". This is a wonderful and exciting album, and often too underrated.

My rating: 4 1/2 stars

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars The band presents some psyche moments, at times, probably to remind us their origins. But the contrast between "Psychosonia" which is a combination of spacey stuff and hard-rock is totally inappropriate. On the contrary "Virgin Of The World" is absolutely sublime. So emotive, so melodic, so . great (at least till the vocals enter the scene). But even so, it remains one of my fave from this work.

On the speedy edge, the excellent "Rocky Paths" is a demoniac song : wild beat, great guitar. The tradition of this musical angle of the band is very well defended with such a track. A highlight IMHHO.

On the same mood "Angels Of Death" has more in common with heavy prog than anything else. Still, the repetitive beat, the wonderful guitar solo and the hypnotic bass create a very convincing song. Enjoyable, I would say.

And the band remains in good territories with the new wave oriented "Living On A Knife Edge". But you might know that I liked quite a lot good new wave bands. This song is of course another energetic one. More pop oriented combined with lots of synth work.

But when I listen to "Disintegration", I have the impression to listen to the Pistols (yes, the Sex ones). The same chaotic and dynamic approach, and vocals as well are not far from Johnny's ones. Surprising of course, but the band has been popular amongst punk audiences and they already had flirted here and there with the style. I guess that very few progheads would praise this number. Amazing.

"Streets Of Fear" do have some similarities with "Bogus Man" (from Roxy). It is not the first time that I could find some relation between those two bands. The final two songs are more traditional ones. Rhythm, solid rock and great guitar are the ingredients for "Lost Chances", spacey background sounds animate the good rock "Trans-Dimensional Man".

A good closing for a another good "Hawkwind" album.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Hawkwind had a short and exciting fling with artsy punk in the 1977-1979 years. But in 1980 they returned to their usual hard rocking space flare with their solid Levitation. So I really had my hopes up for this one.

And indeed, after 5 minutes of sonic poetry the album finally kicks off with Rocky Paths, a fun blast of space hardrock with a steady upbeat pace, good vocals and piercing guitar soloing. All of it drowned in an abundant cosmic synth soup. A classic!

But there's a notable difference with Levitation. Ginger Baker, who kicked the hell out of his kit on Levitation has left the spaceship and his replacement Martin Griffin restricts himself to basic rock rhythms. The drumkit also suffers from the typical 80's gated drums production (the big reverbed snare-syndrome). It kills off the attack and dynamism, for a drum aficionado like me, that's always a big loss.

A second problem with this album is the lack of ideas. Unless you get a kick out of sci-fi poetry, Sonic Attack, Psychosonia, Virgin of the World and Coded Language won't register any higher then filler status. And Tim Blake is surely missed on the unimaginative synth sequencing of Virgin of The World.

Next to Rocky Paths there's one other memorable song here: Angels of Death, which is also featured on each of the 34 subsequent live albums Hawkwind released since. The remainder of the songs are painful to listen to, seemingly thrown together from half-baked rock clichés with invariably recitative vocals and predictable arrangements. There's an occasional groove as on Trans-dimensional Man but they don't manage to do much with it.

Sonic Coma would have been a more suitable title.

Review by Warthur
4 stars After Levitation proved to be something of a comeback, Hawkwind decided to update their sound by borrowing ideas from contemporary metal bands to produce a sort of "space metal" hybrid of their classic style and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal which was currently in fashion. Though the first song in here is recycled - it's a rerecording of the spoof Sonic Attack civil defence warning from Space Ritual, completely recontextualised with a heavy and bizarrely danceable groove to it - things kick into a slightly higher gear with Rocky Paths, which suffers slightly from rough production on the vocals but has a really nice guitar solo to it.

(In fact, the combination of the guitar solo and the electronic twinkling in the background could almost form a basis for the earliest sonic explorations of Ozric Tentacles, who'd arise later in the decade to compete for Hawkwind's space rock crown.)

The rest of the material is reasonably varied. Angels of Death is an intriguingly repetitive piece which has gone on to become a live staple. Virgin of the World is a preview of the Church of Hawkwind experiment in electronica which would follow this release. Coded Languages perhaps best fuses the punkish energy of NWOBHM with the wild psychedelic space obsessions of Hawkwind themselves, thanks in part to an erudite guest appearance from pal of the band Michael Moorcock delivering a spirited rant about social control through language.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
3 stars "Sonic Attack" is one of the 80s Hawkwind albums that does not feature disposable filler instrumentals and transitions pieces unlike the albums to follow. Indeed this album is perhaps one of the best of hawkwind's 80s albums along with "Levitation", "Chronicle of the Black Sword" and "Electric Tepee".

The high strangeness of 'Sonic Attack' is always a great way to open an album. The lyrics are always intriguing as they were on "Space Ritual"; "In case of Sonic Attack on your district, follow these rules... Use your wheels, it is what they are for, Small babies may be placed inside the special cocoons and should be left, if possible, in shelters, Do not attempt to use your own limbs If no wheels are available, metal, not organic, limbs should be employed whenever possible... Remember, in the case of Sonic Attack survival does mean every man for himself, Statistically more people survive if they think only of themselves, These are the first signs of Sonic Attack: You will notice small objects, such as ornaments, oscillating, You will notice a vibration in your diaphragm You will hear a distant hissing in your ears, You will feel dizzy, You will feel the need to vomit, There will be bleeding from orifices, There will be an ache in the pelvic region, You may be subject to fits of hysterical shouting, or even laughter, These are all sign of imminent Sonic destruction, Your only protection is flight If you are less than ten years old remain in the shelters and use your cocoon....Do not panic.......... Do not panic..." This is followed by 'Rocky Paths', a hard driving song with heavy guitars. After a lull in proceedings with 'Psychosonia', the weird 'Virgin Of The World' can be heard, a sequenced synth piece with voice over filler. Thankfully these filler transitional pieces are few and far between rather than dominate the album and we are treated with the quintessential 'Angels Of Death'. This is the classic track that all Hawkwind fans should have heard. Brock is wonderful on this; "we're angels of life, we're angels of death", and the lead break is dynamic with a driving riff that is simple but effective. 'Living On A Knife Edge' has excellent lead work and the trademark vocals with a high and low part chanting the verses in harmony. The chorus is excellent and there are some memorable lyrics; "Future generations are relying on us".

'Coded Languages' features the return of Mike Moorcock and he will later return in earnest on "Chronicle of the Black Sword". Moorcock's poetry is rather protesting conformity; "Investigate the meaning of your sentence, question the nature of your orders!" and best "they steal away your freedom and your love!" The sequenced music drones on for a while sounding like the type of material on "The Church of Hawkwind" and "Choose Your Masques". At least there is not too much of this on "Sonic Attack".

'Disintegration' is yet another transition into 'Streets Of Fear' which is another excellent track with cracking rhythm, chugging guitars, soaring lead breaks, Brock's vocals and spacey electronics. Definitely this is more like the old Hawkwind and one has to love Brock singing such lies as "Panic is the rule I make".

'Lost Chances' has some great echoed vocals from Brock, who is very strong here, and a heavier guitar over layers of synth electronica. The lyrics are characteristically futuristic and are phrases to augment the heavy guitars; "The race is run, the time is right, get out your gun, it's time to fight."

'Trans-Dimensional Man' is another rocking rhythmic riff with some decent vocals and effective atmospherics. So overall this album has the type of music one can expect from the 80s Hawkwind without all the instrumentals and fillers which mar most of their other 80s comes recommended to those who love their space rock heavy and the album certainly features some of Hawkwind's best 80s material.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Sonic backlash

The previous Levitation is by far my favourite Hawkwind album. Indeed, for me, Levitation stands head and shoulders above any other Hawkwind album. On Levitation, the band managed for the first time in their career to combine memorable and melodic material, excellent musicianship, and high production values in one and the same place. The line-up that recorded Levitation was a fantastic one with the legendary Ginger Baker on drums (easily the best drummer that Hawkwind ever had), the great Tim Blake on keyboards, and the superb lead guitars of Huw Lloyd-Langton in addition to Harvey Bainbridge and Dave Brock. Baker, Blake, and Lloyd-Langton were in particular essential elements in what made Levitation such a big musical success, but sadly only Lloyd-Langton remained in the line-up for the present album.

In general, I think that Hawkwind reverted somewhat to an earlier stage in their evolution with this album. The first sign of this is that they deliberately chose to open the album with a re- make that also gives the album its title. This spoken word piece that originally appeared on a live album is rather annoying and can safely be skipped. What follows is a tour de force of rather typical Hawkwind numbers. The beats are again rather repetitive, the guitar riffs rather simple, and not much to speak of in terms of memorable songs or subtle moments. Sadly one must conclude that Levitation was a one off. The New Wave/Punk approach of PXR5 and Quark, Strangeness And Charm is thankfully largely absent as well as the worst excesses of early albums like Doremi Fasol Latido and In Search Of Space, but there is still rather little else to be said in favour of Sonic Attack. The songs all sound very much the same and there is not much variation and diversity to speak of.

A decent album, but very much of a letdown after the excellent Levitation

Review by Modrigue
3 stars Harmless Attack

The thundering "Levitation" opened the decade by showing great promises and offered HAWKWIND a new life. However, despite its shiny cover art, "Sonic Attack" is not as inspired and innovative as its predecessor. With space metal, the music incorporates more and more ambient electronic passages and a hard rock FM feel. The album is overall pleasant, but the tracks are not very memorable nor distinguishable either.

The line-up has also been victim of a few changes. Ex-"HAWKLORDS" drummer Martin Griffin replaces Ginger Baker, whereas no keyboardist was found to replace Tim Blake. "Sonic Attack" features also a guest participation of Michael Moorcock, the last one being six years ago, on "Warrior on the Edge of Time". You know what it means... interruptive spoken passages.

The title track is a reference from a Moorcock's poem. It reuses the transition piece interpreted live by Robert Calvert during the 1972 Space Ritual tour, with additional sound effects. This 80's reworked version does not bring much to the original and is rather lengthy. In conclusion, a quite useless opener. "Rocky Paths" is a hard FM space rock/metal piece sung by Huw Lloyd-Langton, with various synthesizer sonorities. Nice, but not on the same level as on "Levitation". "Psychosonia" is the continuation of the previous track and features rock-y bass and guitar, as well as Moorcock reciting his poems. The background sequence of the ambient "Virgin Of The World" reminds a little PINK FLOYD's "On the Run". Mainly synthetic, This track will be remixed in an even more electronic version as "Experiment with Destiny" in the "Church of Hawkwind" album, one year later. It contains a cool floating guitar solo.

Then comes "Angels Of Death" with its little repetitive space hard rock riff, and the punky "Living On A Knife Edge". This second song is more interesting as it also features synthesizer cosmic passages and very nice guitar playing. Again, "Coded Languages" is another poem recited by Michael Moorcock that serves as introduction for the punchy metal/punk "Disintegration". "Streets Of Fear" has far reminiscences from "Magnu" with its heavy distorted guitars. Not much to say about "Lost Chances". This ender is not bad, but not especially good either. It has a cool finale though. The bonus track "Trans-Dimensional Man" is rather anecdotal.

"Sonic Attack" has no really weak tracks, but not truly remarkable ones either. The music is overall enjoyable, but this album is a bit deceiving just one year after the great and bombastic "Levitation". The compositions are pleasant but do not feature many changes, as if they were drafts for something else. In act, they unveil glimpses of Dave Brock's growing interest for electronic technologies.

An enjoyable space rock/metal/punk/FM album. For the 80's, not the worst HAWKWIND opus but not the most interesting either...

Latest members reviews

4 stars In my view quite possibly the most underrated Hawkwind album of them all. Most of the lyric are very very bleak and there is some excellent social commentary. Yet despite this morbid outlook there are some wonderful tracks and some wonderful playing. Huw Lloyd Langton does some of his lead bes ... (read more)

Report this review (#25537) | Posted by | Friday, September 24, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I learned to smoke weed listening to this album (I'm not advocating it, just giving some history!), over, and over, and over some 20 odd years ago. Its kind of burnt into my soul. We all have those 'defining albums' in our lives, this was mine - and I'm proud to associate myself with it. Its edgy, ... (read more)

Report this review (#25535) | Posted by | Tuesday, March 2, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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