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Hawkwind The Chronicle Of The Black Sword album cover
3.48 | 141 ratings | 14 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1985

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Song Of The Swords (3:25)
2. Shade Gate (3:01)
3. The Sea King (3:23)
4. The Pulsing Cavern (2:33)
5. Elric The Enchanter (4:51)
6. Needle Gun (4:13)
7. Zarozinia (3:21)
8. The Demise (1:02)
9. Sleep Of A Thousand Tears (4:09)
10. Chaos Army (0:53)
11. Horn Of Destiny (6:21)

Total time 37:12

Bonus tracks on 1985 CD release:
12. Arioch (3:27)
13. Assault & Battery (Live) (3:39)
14. Sleep Of 1000 Years (Live) (4:41)

Bonus tracks on 2009 remaster:
12. Arioch (3:24)
13. Night Of The Hawks (5:06)
14. Green Finned Demon (6:05)
15. Dream Dancers (1:28)
16. Dragons And Fables (3:21)

Line-up / Musicians

- Dave Brock / vocals, synthesizer, keyboards, guitar, co-producer
- Huw Lloyd-Langton / lead guitar, vocals (3)
- Harvey Bainbridge / keyboards, synthesizer, voice (Arioch), co-producer
- Alan Davey / bass, backing vocals
- Danny Thompson Jr. / drums
- Dave Charles / percussion, co-producer

Releases information

Artwork: John Coulthart

LP Flicknife Records ‎- SHARP 033 (1985, UK)

CD Flicknife Records ‎- SHARP 033D (1985, UK) With 3 bonus tracks
CD Atomhenge ‎- ATOMCD 1012 (2009, UK) 24-bit remaster by Ben Wiseman with 5 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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HAWKWIND The Chronicle Of The Black Sword ratings distribution

(141 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
Good, but non-essential (35%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

HAWKWIND The Chronicle Of The Black Sword 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
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".

Review by Jim Garten
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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'

Review by ZowieZiggy
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.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
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

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by 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.

Review by GruvanDahlman
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.

Review by Modrigue
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".

Review by friso
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.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Latest members reviews

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 f ... (read more)

Report this review (#247253) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Friday, October 30, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#25563) | Posted by | Sunday, January 11, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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