Death Hawks – Death Hawks

Death HawksBy sheer coincidence, and I swear this is true, as I sat down in the late afternoon sun in my back yard to write up this review, a hawk swooped down on a flying pigeon right before me. The pair plunged to the ground and over the next ten minutes there was a terrible flapping, shrieking, and a slow, torturous death. At one stage the hawk looked at me for a while, as if warning me not to interfere, and once its prey was dead, launched itself skyward once more to find a place to feast on the warm body.

I tell you this because what I have just seen played out is absolutely the complete opposite of the Death Hawks‘ self titled album (Cargo Records). So having established the complete inappropriateness of the name, I will continue.

The songs on the album place far more emphasis on the instruments than the vocals, which themselves are more about sound than content, and in general create flowing grooves and drones that hark back not simply to the late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelia, but right back to their roots in the likes of Willie Dixon and other early blues and rock. Mix in some jazz and a few riffs and you have something pretty much out of a time warp. In the end it’s an enjoyable album and some good background music, but offers nothing new and little emotion.

‘Cain Go Home (2. Session)’ is one of the more interesting songs, with a simple whistled tune over some tormented and atmospheric guitar that sounds like a swarm of hornets. Contented hornets. The ‘2’ appears to represent two verses of whistling joined by a bridge of droning repetition, because the song is reprised later with just one verse and acoustic instruments and called ‘Cain Go Home (1. Session)’.

‘Gim-Eyed Goat’ grabs the ghosts of bands like Eric Burdon and The Animals circa 1965-7 (think ‘When I Was Young’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’) and is the most song-like of the tracks with genuine vocals and a substantial melody. ‘Quiet Sun’ is rooted in the same traditions as the likes of Sam Cooke, Leadbelly and the James Carter song ‘Po’ Lazarus’. A modern reworking of a ’60s interpretation of ’30s prison road-gang blues if you like, without the soul, pain and anguish.

The record closes with the long jazzy laid-back groove of ‘Black Acid’ before it just stops, somewhat disappointingly, as if they all just got a bit too bored with the endless repetition and went to get some beers.

I know I’ve come across as harsh, even though there’s nothing offensive about the record and it’s nicely played and produced and I really do enjoy listening to it. But having just seen one five metres away, I can safely say it ain’t no death hawk.


Gilbert Potts

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