26 Nov 2015

Hard Action - Sinister Vibes [Full length] (2015, Svart Records)

Leather-rocking biker music with everything it entails
Everything about this band screams "we're one of those seventies hard n' heavy clones from Sweden that land somewhere in the midst of a circlejerk consisting of early Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy and Girlschool". The promo shots feature sunglasses, denim, beards and a bandana. The cover presents wrecked guitar equipment and a stylish seventies design. Songtitles like Watch Me Burn, Cut to the Bone and Dead Dogs really do the trick. It's a sure thing, right? Well, no, not really.

These Finnish bad boys - a veritable super group to say the least, consisting of fine musicians from Speedtrap, Forced Kill and other prominent Finnish bands - may be sporting the mandatory seventies hard rockin' biker dresscode, but these motorcycles carry them to far punkier territories. When they're the punkiest they sound like a head-on collision between a flashier Ramones and Danzig-era Misfits on speed. When they're the heaviest, Airbourne and a slew of other hard rock bands come to mind.

"It's tough to compare Hard Action to any one band or scene because they borrow so much."

There's really no defining moment on Sinister Vibes, the band's debut album. With no real highs or lows to set the bar, the tracks come off as being nothing but a case of explosive nostalgiarrhea. It's tough to compare Hard Action to any one band or scene because they borrow so much. To put it bluntly, they sound like every aviator shade-wearing biker cop on Earth had an unlubricated orgy on top of a giant heap of Gibson guitars and Marshall stacks.

It's not that Sinister Vibes is a boring mess, it's just that this particular style has been done better by other bands, and it seems mostly like a group of already established musicians wanting to cash in on the recent resurgence of popularity in the genre. It's entertaining enough, and it's certainly listenable with its hookless chords and flashy shredding, but ultimately nothing really stands out. Hard Action is in many ways to hard rock what Speedtrap is to speed metal: A crash course in all the tropes and an entirely by-the-numbers experience going top speed through a wall of nostalgia. 6/10 guitars.

1. Dead Dogs
2. Chosen Few
3. Cut to the Bone
4. Night Moves
5. Deadweight (Cut Me Loose)
6. Watch Me Burn
7. Hey You
8. Sinister Vibes
9. Gun Point
10. No Lesson Learned

HARD ACTION on Facebook
HARD ACTION on Bandcamp
SVART RECORDS official site

21 Nov 2015

Death Hawks - Sun Future Moon [Full length] (2015, Svart Records)

Consistently ambitious and well-crafted nature-rock
The Finnish folk and rock scene has many gems hidden to the rest of the Western world. If you're not acquainted with the progressive grooves of Sammal, the ecclectic ramblings of Paavoharju or the laid back finesse of Riitaoja, all I've got to say is get going! One of the many surprising acts that the land of a thousand lakes has to offer is Death Hawks, a group which has been consistently releasing albums and touring Europe since 2010.

While the morbidly titled debut from 2012 hinted at sun-powered seventies-gone-modern psychedelia through compository valleys and mountains alike, and the self-titled follow-up from the year after flew among the stars on a hypnotically interstellar space rock trip, the Finnish group's third album - Sun Future Moon - opts for a greater scope than the preceding releases.

The dreamy ambience that Death Hawks has integrated into their sound on the previous album features strongly on Sun Future Moon, contributing with alluring synths, smooth bass and wistfully effective guitars and strings right from the start with the first offering of organic folk rock "Hey Ya Sun Ra".
"Sun Future Moon... ...elaborates on the sound and style they found on their two earlier efforts..."
No doubt about it, Sun Future Moon rings like a true Death Hawks album and showcases a band still going strong in terms of songwriting on their triennial album. While Sun Future Moon shows what we already know the band is capable of, it also elaborates on the sound and style they found on their two earlier efforts, and is - like nature - in an ongoing state of evolution. The A-side of Sun Future Moon provides a stern, traditional approach, while the B-side is a bit more on the daring side of things. As an example "Dream Life, Waking Life" comes off as a Riders On The Storm-esque psychedelic lounge piece, while the follow-up track "Heed the Calling" has late sixties earworm written all over it. And next, airy pop track "Wing Wah" takes over, followed by a fragile composition of spaceous guitar ambience akin to Black Sabbath's Planet Caravan.

The captivating bass play of Riku Pirttiniemi has, to my great pleasure, been promoted to a more prominent position, driving forth the lingering synths and gentle instrumentation with a sense of instinctual purpose. As usual Tenho Mattila's sax, synths and keys are juxtaposed against Teemu Markkula's more tenacious vocals, with the percussion provided by Miikka Heikkinen returning to a more traditional rock-setup, as opposed to the more tribal sounding rhythm section of the self-titled sophomore album. In many ways Sun Future Moon has succeeded in becoming a colourful amalgam of every essential element of Death Hawks. 8/10 guitars.

1. Hey Ya Sun Ra
2. Ripe Fruits
3. Dream Machine
4. Behind Thyme
5. Seaweed
6. Dream Life, Waking Life
7. Heed the Calling
8. Wing Wah
9. Future Moon
10. Friend of Joy

DEATH HAWKS official site
DEATH HAWKS on Facebook
SVART RECORDS official site