Formerly Chickenhawk, Hawk Eyes first came to my attention in 2009 supporting then label mates Kong at The Mad Ferret in Preston and blew me away with riff after riff whilst being stupidly tight and keeping you on edge with a demented performance, not quite knowing what to expect next. After this show, I managed to get their self titled debut album and decided that I had to keep a look out for them. Whenever they were playing and whoever they were playing with, I had to go. They’ve since played with their old label mates Castrovalva, These Monsters and Humanfly as well as Retox, Ginger Wildheart, Exit_International, Alexisonfire, The James Cleaver Quintet, The Computers and Pulled Apart By Horses, who have admitted that they were worried to take Hawk Eyes out on tour as they didn’t want to be blown off the stage each night, but decided that they are too good not to play with.
Official debut ‘Modern Bodies’ was released on Brew Records, and featured a lot of songs on previous releases which were no longer available. It still sounded urgent, fresh, angry and was unrelenting in beating you over the head, mainly with riffs. They released their final Brew release, the ‘Mindhammers’ EP in December which hinted at a change of direction. Instead of being full on, 100 MPH in your face, the new material hinted at a change of tactics; this time they are more sadistic in their assault on your senses.
Now with Fierce Panda, they open with the brilliant Witchhunt, you immediately notice that Paul Astick has toned down the screams due to the “unspeakable damage” that he was doing to his throat. This has changed the band to become more creative, and explore many more influences whilst maintaining what the band do best; mesmerising you with the music. Lead single Skyspinners is next up which features possibly the first true sing-along moment that Hawk Eyes have produced, without actually sacrificing any riff or alienating long term fans.
Yes Have Some is a demented pop song played at breakneck speed which will have you singing the “Bring it right back, take it right back” refrain in no time and have you begging for more. Headstrung follows on perfectly, being a very different song which has a more classic feel throughout the chorus, yet an experimental side throughout the verses. You Deserve A Medal is a full blown assault before slowing down to a perfect chorus of just Matt Reid’s drums and Paul Astick’s vocals before it’s over all too soon.
Hollywood Sweatshop is gloriously experimental, switching from math rock to grunge to pop-rock back to math rock with Astick displaying some of his best vocal work to date, both soothing and blood curdling in the blink of an eye. The Meeting, whilst not as experimental, still continues the stupidly high standard of the album. Milk Hog is one of the highlights, taking it’s influences from the likes of Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan whilst vocally it is more reminiscent of older Hawk Eye tracks.
Kiss This is a loud affair, which sounds like Astick has finally lost his mind with breathtaking effect. Bears By The Head is a slow burner before exploding into life towards the last minute of the track, taking you unawares and smashing your senses to pieces. Bees is the final track on the album, and starts again in typical unrelenting fashion before the whole thing breaks down the cries of “Can’t you see we’re dying, it’s no use crying” make you want to scream your lungs out with the band whilst collectively losing your shit to a super guitar chugg before starting up again. The song clocks in at just a fraction under 7 minutes yet it holds your attention throughout, with beautiful instrumentation with a deranged spoken word text over it. The atmosphere of the song is haunting, beautiful, angry, sad and glorious all at the same time. It also begs you to play the album again, just so you can understand the beauty of everything that you’ve just taken in.
This is one of the best releases I’ve heard in a long time, and will be a serious contender for album of the year. If there is any justice in the world, should catapult these four lads from Leeds to the top of the British rock music scene.
For Fans Of: Melvins, QOTSA, Dillinger Escape Plan, riffs.
Download: Yes Have Some, Bees, Milk Hog, Hollywood Sweatshop