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Hawkwind - Blood Of The Earth CD (album) cover

BLOOD OF THE EARTH

Hawkwind

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.68 | 126 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars Welcome aboard the starship Hawkwind, prepare to be mesmirised by the surreal Masters of the Universe as they return to the future-past.

"I will become master of the universe," the narrative voice begins on this latest offering from prog space rock legends Hawkwind. This is your captain speaking: We are on our way; the Hawkwind starship has left planet earth on its way to unchartered galactic territories. Have a pleasant flight.

First I was delighted to be able to review this album from one of my favourite prog bands. I have always been enamoured by the spacey themes and repetitive hypno riffs of Hawkwind and here is no exception. From the outset the band are crossing the boundaries with a revenge; returning to what we love about them, that is their unabashed trademark style of blending mesmeric riffing and conceptual themes with some rather off kilter vocals and lyrics.

There is an unsettling starkness about the music on the album. The narrations are hyper strange but work well in the musical framework. The melodies are simple but effective as usual. The Dik Mik "Space Ritual" style effects are an omnipresent force permeating the tracks. 'Seahawks' is a virtual exploration of musical ideas and stylised experimentation, almost an instrumental, but including estranged narrations which make little sense on the page but make perfect sense with the mesmeric music. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Waves washing on a beach end the track providing a calm serene atmosphere of isolation and barren landscapes.

This segues immediately into 'Blood of the Earth' with a cosmic musicscape similar to the strange choral trip on "2001". The cold starkness of space is emulated in the arrangements consisting of sustained keyboards taking us to a distant galaxy; perhaps an icy glacial planet devoid of life. There is no time sig, this is Tangerine Dream meets Godspeed You! Black Emperor; perhaps one of Hawkwind's most bizarre tracks. The narration is a deranged poetry offering, similar to the 70s poetry of Calvert; "as crust quakes and earthquakes.... burning dust fills river and lake... people wail, into the coffin drives the final nail." It is not 'Sonic Attack' but still remains a disquietening intro to the next piece.

'Wraith' blazes with a killer riff and the comforting wail of Dave Brock. It is the first real song and has enough Hawkwindisms to please even the most discerning addict. It is no surprise to hear those soaring lead solos and furious distorted riffs, but the real treat here is the synthesizer solo which is brilliantly intense and outstanding. The lyrics are appropriate to the frenetic pace and riffing; "no escape from reality, no escape from the beast inside... he's an animal, he'll be the only one left, victims of the future, crowned him undisgraced". When it settles, the space effects lock in with a curious retro feel and improvised splicing of soundbytes of the spacey kind. Even the riff here is familiar Hawkwind and that's what makes this one of the great tracks of the album; it is familiar territory and this is a welcome thing for Hawkwind addicts who do not want to hear new approaches but are accustomed to classic Hawkwind music. The riffing is inspirational, with metal blasts and a driving bassline, and dynamic pounding percussion with classic drum fills and cymbal splashes. This track fits comfortably with anything from the Hawkwind catalogue of the 70s. I rate 'Wraith' as one of the best tracks over the last 2 decades for Hawkwind; a true masterpiece.

'Green Machine' begins with symphonic pads that are calming after the carnage of the previous track. There is a strange creaking effect over the strings and an echoing motif. Then the beauty of the clandestine guitars chimes in. The synthesizers are incredible trading off with the guitars. This has to be one of the great Hawkwind instrumentals. I would have loved to hear some vocals but this is still a powerful track that has a depth of emotion and musical substance.

'Inner Visions' has a moderate tempo and some heavy multilayered space effects with trademark chirps and trills. The vocals are different that usual, almost chanted in places. The riff is infectious and it is consistent. The showpiece of the track is the instrumental section with heavy keyboard injections and a constant sequencer rhthym . At times the music is synth driven and off the scale as far as the melody is concerned, using motifs that are repeated in various ways. The crystalline synths and power riffs are a wonderful combination. There is a veritable wall of sound and I have not heard Hawkwind so creative for years. Another highlight of the album that is worth returning to often.

'Sweet Obsession' fades in after a crashdown, and there is the constant presence of a lead guitar burning up the frets as a string driven keyboard plays. Brock's vocals are strong on this with a familiar style of performance. The song speaks of the future and an obsession with a girl, "all the times we spend together memories from the past, a future holds the key forever let's make our future last, I receive your message though the information's clear, I want to keep the feeling you're not there to disappear. Your confession, my sweet obsession..." The music is hard driving on this, a chugging rhythm with a repetitive verse and chorus; a simple structure that Hawkwind pride themself on. Once again this is a highlight of the album with some great hooks and a cool driving riff.

'Comfy Chair' has a sequencer effect of spacey motifs and a much stranger vocal style. The performance is laid back and off kilter, as if the voice comes from the distance, and it is even multi tracked by Brock in a high and low part. The violin sounds are a bizarre touch, and there is no real release from the tension until the instrumental break which is a time sig change and a synth solo with vibrant percussion. The sound builds into a foreign sounding melody, almost Egyptian or Spanish in flavour. I particularly like the repetitive figure as the Hammond sound crunches in. The effect creates a hypnotic groove that finally is broken into a haunting melody that fades gradually.

'Prometheus' has a Mystical feel helped by an Ancient sound, of psychedelic guitars. Even the vocals here are hyped into psychedelic territory and the sonic shapes. You have to love those lyrics; "The sound and fury of a sonic solution, upon a seer he's a master of time, mandrake messiah on a gravity wafer, he's an exotic he's a man of machine, Prometheus rises in a rush of sound, the power of the ancient light he found, the secrets of the stars act in his space, defies the laws of physics to continue the race". It a fantastic melodic space romp. I love the way it drives along only to shatter half way through with an Indian Sitar. It revels in a psychedelic mood here and simply blitzes in true Hawkwind style.

'You'd Better Believe It' is a track that has featured on the classic "Hall of the Mountain Grill" album and been performed live on Hawkwind albums in the early phase of the band. It begins with a strange effect and then the familiar melody crunches along, the chord structure is fabulous. It is a new version of the mesmirising classic and I always loved this and so this is no exception. I am already in love with this album so to hear this is just another reverent throwback to Hawkwind at their best, and I am all for that. The chug a chug riff over spaced up spiralling guitars is a treat. The track breaks away in the middle with some innovative space effects and an electric piano has a chance to shine. This is where the track really grabs me; I am in awe how the band have returned to their roots the retro feel is unmistakeable but it is so fresh. The instrumental section continues for a time, with no discernible structure but a rather repetitive riff with improvised notes. Soon it returns to the riffing guitars accompanied by huge blasts of sci fi laser effects, and then onto the verses. It's a 7 minute version of the lengthy classic and another highlight for sure.

'Sentinel' begins with gentle keyboarding and a very slow beat, quite tranquil and the spacey effects are everpresent. Brock's vocals are far more subdued and melodic. He does a good job of singing in a balladic style though this is a Hawkwind ballad and far removed from standard arrangements form ballads you may be used to. There is a sombre almost melancholy feel on this. The chorus has some reflective lyrics; "How many more times can we hear the echo of the future, screams in the night how many more times must we watch or write." The quieter more pleasant approach here is welcome, particularly the ethereal quality of the keyboards and clean guitars, and I hoped after this there would be a real rocker to end the album on a high note.

'Starshine' is another 7 minute track. It starts with very quiet pads, and tom toms over a soundscape of spacey sound effects. The very long sustained pads are broken by nocturnal effects, like alien insects screeching and twittering on a distant planet. It feels like an instrumental from the outset, though I felt here that vocals would be needed to end the album. As usual Hawkwind breaks convention and ends on an instrumental housing very strange effects.

In conclusion the album does not have any weak tracks and in fact contains some of the best Hawkwind material for years. Some of it is similar to "Alien 4" or "The Xenon Codex" in the type of music presented, but it is so much better. In fact this latest album is one of Hawkwind's most vibrant approaches to music for years. For that reason the album is highly recommended. Who says the Hawkwind spaceship has crash landed. If it did at one stage it certainly is airborne again. As far as this reviewer is concerned the spaceship is cruising at warp speed. The journey is complete, the silver Hawkwind spaceship is returning to the atmosphere and on its way back to the solar system. Who am I to complain? It has been a pleasant experience and a return to familiar terra firma.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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