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Hawkwind - The Chronicle Of The Black Sword CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.48 | 141 ratings

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4 stars After some sub-par albums that pretty much missed the space rock bar that Hawkwind had set in the 70's, the band returned with their 14th album "The Chronicle of the Black Sword". Returning to the Michael Moorcock themed concept, the band decided to center the album around his fictional sci-fi characters, this time telling the story (musically) about Elrich. This time, Dave Brock, Huw Lloyd Langton and Harvey Bainbridge (joined 1977), who had been in the band on the previous album "Choose Your Masques" would be joined by newcomers Alan Davey on bass and Danny Thompson, Jr. on drums. Thompson would only remain with the band until 1988.

"Song of the Swords" starts off with a lively number that echoes the sound of the Hawkwind of the 70s, which was totally missing from the last few albums. A track by Brock, this one brings back in a more solid guitar sound and shows the promise of a better album than the last few. The track is too short, however, and ends just as you think it is going to go into a jam section. "Shade Gate" is written by Bainbridge and is an instrumental with electronics, synths and effects with a guitar fading in to the synth layers later on and then a sudden abrupt ending. The last of the 3 main members, Langton, wrote the next track "The Sea King". This has a nice mix of spacey effects and a guitar riff that gives it the appealing space rock sound, but again, this is too short. Bainbridge and Davey co-wrote "The Pulsing Cavern" which is a nice, atmospheric instrumental with the bass having a more central part while effects and keys swirl around and percussive pulsing sound. "Elric the Enchanter" is again written by Davey. It begins with a hard, steady beat and vocals. The band kicks in soon after for a heavier sound than what you usually expect from Hawkwind. As the track continues, you finally get the jam that you have been craving for as the track goes into the middle section and actually changes tempo and meter part way through. So far, this album is much better than the last few which were more keyboard centered and new wave sounding. This time things are more guitar centered.

The 2nd side starts with "Needle Gun" by Brock. With this track, the sound moves to a hard rock style and further from the trademark space rock sound. It's an okay track, but more standard sounding with silly lyrics. "Zarozinia" is also written by Brock (co-written by Kris Tait). This is a more ambient sounding track with synth layers and vocals only. It has a surprisingly lovely melody with no percussion. This would have been a stellar track with more development. "The Demise" is a short intermediary track co-written by Bainbridge and Brock which utilizes spoken words and spooky sounds. "Sleep of a Thousand Tears" is the only track on the album written by Michael Moorcock, the author of the sci-fi series the album is based on. Moorcock has collaborated with Hawkwind many times in the past and returns for this album. Brock also shares writing credit here. The sound continues with the heavier sound of the album, but thankfully keeps the space rock vibe even with the heavier riffs and pounding bass. The band once again allows time for a guitar centered jam. "Chaos Army" is another short track of sound effects. The last track is the longest at just over 6 minutes, called "Horn of Destiny" written by Brock. More guitar riffs and an up tempo, steady beat promised another heavy space rock track. Surprisingly dynamic (for Hawkwind), this track has some great percussive effects and generates a lot of expectation and drama.

This album is definitely an improvement over the direction the band had been going in for the past few albums. It is true that the music is more dynamic and heavier than normal, and that the vocals are more up front than previously, but that works to the albums benefit. The authentic and trademark space rock sound had returned. The biggest problem that still remained was that the songs were still shorter than in the previous decade and some tracks were just too short and things could seem choppy, especially on the first side of the album. However, the band really seemed to gel much better than they had for a while, much to the pleasant surprise of the fans. The question everyone asked back then however, was would it continue? Unfortunately, things were inconsistent with albums, some better than others throughout the rest of the band's career. But, for now, the band they loved was back.

TCat | 4/5 |


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