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Hawkwind - Into the Woods CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.74 | 55 ratings

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4 stars What is this, the hundredth Hawkwind disc to date?! Perhaps with the countless live albums, compilations and archival releases it edges closer to that, but apparently it's roundabout the thirtieth studio disc from Dave Brock's legendary British musical institution and defining spacerockers of almost fifty years. The band has been on something of a roll of consistently good recent albums since the start of the decade with `Blood of the Earth', and their latest, 2017's `Into the Woods' contains plenty of strong material that drifts in some surprisingly unexpected directions, making it especially the sort of album that the long-time Hawkwind faithful will most dig the hell out of.

Assume it would again be full of the usual heavy punky blasts with stretched out gutsy instrumental jamming? Sometimes, but mostly `Into the Woods', perhaps unsurprisingly with that title, lands the cosmic craft for a more earthy, personal and song-based collection, where the tune is frequently the priority, even if they're still wrapped in plenty of swirling trippy effects and treated vocalizations! Partly continuing the story begun on the previous disc `The Machine Stops, inspired by the E.M Foster sci-fi novel of the same name, `...Woods' not only holds a more grounded quality (would `intimate' be pushing it a little bit for a Hawkwind disc?) with plenty of ecological/nature-themed lyrics, but the group sound very relaxed and actually having a lot of fun in-between the more introspective moments!

A fancy piano intro that welcomes the opening title piece `Into The Woods' is almost instantly pummelled by Hawkwind's gutsy mix of growling guitars and wailing soloing, mud-thick bass and rattling drumming, and Dave Brock's gnashing vocal over swirling organ grinding is plied with that suffocating madness of all the best Hawkwind tracks. `Cottage In The Woods' is lightly melancholic with a weary vocal from Brock, the short song building effectively in restrained power from the rest of the band before drifting into spacey ambient synth interlude `The Woodpecker'. Keyboardist Mr Dibs then takes a wheezy vocal lead for the gruff rock track `Have You Seen Them?' that floats off into more typical Hawkwind-fare with tough riffing, reaching guitar soloing and rumbling drumming (and Haz Weaton's seductively slithering bass in the background is tasty!).

`Ascent' is essentially a solo piece that finds Brock in pensive mood with an ecological-themed lyric backed by a sparse acoustic guitar and only the lightest of synths, but `Space Ship Blues' throws the album for six being a swampy and bluesy fiddle and harmonica driven country-flecked rock n' roller (some are sure to find it grating, but it's infectious and hard not to enjoy!)! `The Wind' keeps up the proud Hawkwind tradition of spoken-word poetry interludes before morphing into a mantra-like vocal drift over eerie electronics. `Vegan Lunch' is a poppy and loopy up-tempo stop-start sprint with dreamy chorus vocals and a Daevid Allen/Gong-like mania to the words (although their ditching meat theme seems completely sincere), and there's just a touch of the early Porcupine Tree albums sprinkled throughout this one too.

`Magic Scenes' might be a fairly repetitive heavy plodding rocker in the typical Hawkwind style, but `Darkland' is a gorgeous weeping Mellotron-pierced acoustic lament that almost calls to mind `Wind of Change' off Hawkwind's legendary `Hall of the Mountain Grill' LP from '74. Brock's snarly vocal gives `Wood Nymph's fantastical lyric a convincing dignity over the seductive slinking bass and plenty of rising/falling electronics, but the piece still twists with grinding heavy turns.`Deep Cavern' is a final `Warrior on the Edge of Time'-like spoken-word interval over ambient/new-age synth pools (but listen for that lurking intimidating drumbeat!) that ultimately gets blasted by the raging nine-plus minute fully instrumental closer `Magic Mushroom'. It's here that the band once again head for deepest space, overloaded with slabs of relentless bass, ragged 'n raging chugging guitar histrionics, bleeding electronic melts, mud-thick Hammond organ tantrums and bashing drum fury. It's classic Hawkwind with a touch of the organ-heavy proto-prog bands of old, and a killer way to wrap the set.

While it's hard to know where to place `Into the Woods' among the vast Hawkwind discography at this point, this predominantly song-based break from their usual deep-space travels is a welcome diversion here, and it makes it more special and unique in many ways. A world away from polite `old man prog', dreary AOR, or worse, lazy cover albums, that many of the prog rock-related oldies acts still active today put out, Hawkwind can still keep holding their heads high with the pride that they're putting out fresh studio albums of great artistic merit with plenty to say, and long-term fans of Brock and the group should snap up `Into the Woods' right away.

Hawkwind carries on and does it again - Four stars.

(and while we're at it, Hawkwind PLEASE come back to Australia! You're sorely missed, and many of us still fondly remember your 2011 gigs ? let's do it again very soon!)

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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