Sunday, 22 April 2012

Freedom Hawk - Holding On (Album Review)

Album Type - Full Length
Release - 2011
Label - Small Stones Recordings
Track Listing
1. Thunderfoot               (4:10)
2. Living for Days           (2:50)
3. Edge of Destiny         (4:13)
4. Her Addiction             (3:59)
5. Zelda                          (1:44)
6. Nomad                       (4:44)
7. Magic Lady                (4:44)
8. Bandito                       (3:07)
9. Flat Tyre                     (4:36)
10. North Swell               (4:02)
11. Standing in Line        (4:31)
12. Faded                       (4:56)
13. Indian Summer         (4:15)

Total Running Time        (51:51)

Freedom Hawk is a four piece stoner rock band hailing from Tidewater, Virginia in the USA.  According to their press release Freedom Hawk’s sound is categorised by their blend of heavy riffs, rolling groove, and soulful guitar melodies to produce the sound that is Freedom Hawk.  Formed in 2003, Holding On is their 3rd full length release, having previously released an EP called Universal and a split with The Crimson Electric in 2007.  They also released a 4 song EP in 2005, although I am not certain about an official release

The four piece line up consists of

T. R. Morton: Vocals, Guitars and Organ
Lenny Hines: Drums
Matt Cave: Guitars
Mark Cave: Bass

Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, 3 bands who immediately spring to mind when you’re thinking of stoner or desert rock. Synonymous with the scene for over 20 years, they been the catalyst for many bands seeking to emulate or copy their sound, sometimes producing music of quality and others time not.

For that reason, I often feel a sense of apprehension when exposed to new bands in the genre, due in no small part to an over saturation in the market of poor quality music and perhaps for reasons that some bands, are intent on trying to be the next Monster Magnet, Kyuss or Fu Manchu.  Having never heard of Freedom Hawk before this record, the usual feelings started to stir.  Thankfully, Freedom Hawk, here with their third official release Holding On, have produced an album of impeccable quality.

What you have, is what you expect from stoner/desert rock, bucket loads of riffs and that trademark fuzzy bass groove in spades!!  Whilst listening to this record, I couldn’t help feeling that I was being transported back to 1970’s America; peace and love, warm summers, driving in your convertible and heading down to the beach.  Think Cheech & Chong, and their ‘fiberweed’ van and you’ll get the general idea.

Having been labelled "the East Coast's answer to Fu Manchu", you might expect a band to flounder perhaps sacrificing originality in favour of being a nostalgia act; however Holding On is a headstrong, full throttle adrenaline ride, with a tank full of groovy riffs, blistering guitar solos and enough swagger to make their contemporaries green (no pun intended) with envy. 

Holding On resonates with the influence of Dio era Black Sabbath, and also the solo career of Ozzy Osborne, specifically Blizzard of Oz.  Indeed T.R. Morton’s voice has an uncanny resemblance to Ozzy, yet retains originality.  More importantly, the exemplary vocals only serve to make this album such fantastic fun.  The band SHeavy also springs to mind when I listened to this record.  Is it any wonder this record is awesome?

Since their inception in 1995, Small Stone Records’ have an exemplary track record of producing bands and releasing music of superior quality and Holding On continues that great tradition.

"Thunderfoot, ‘Living for Days’, ’Edge of Destiny’ and ‘Her Addiction’ fused with powerful chords, Iommi-esque guitar solos and an impressive use of ambience, creates the aesthetic of psychedelia and fuzziness, giving you that warm tripped out feeling and infecting your psyche to it’s core. The sporadic use of organ’s provide the album with a spaced out / out of body sensation, all of which set them apart in their own right from the aforementioned Fu Manchu.  I couldn’t help thinking on ‘Her Addiction’ that it had just a whiff of The Ramones influence on it, giving it that punchy attitude and up tempo ‘punk’ vibe. 

Throughout the album T.R. Morton's Ozzy influenced vocals add supreme quality to the record and it infuses well with the bands fuzzed up sound and further cementing their ‘70s rock sound.  Slower more experimental detours on the album such as "Zelda", which could be their ‘Planet Caravan’, add definition and texture to the album.  Plan and simple, Holding On is just downright impressive. 

During the 13 tracks on offer here, Freedom Hawk provide the listener with the sweetest grooves imaginable, yet offers something truly unique. The band has the uncanny knack of producing polished melodies with beefy riffs, giving substance and vigour to the album.  Tracks like ‘Bandito’ are catchy as hell and take you on rollercoaster ride, leaving you disorientated and bewildered, by what has just happened.

Freedom Hawk have fair and flamboyance in their sound, most importantly the ability to write memorable tunes.  This skill intertwined with an unyielding production from Vince Burke (Beaten Back to Pure) gives the album a classic sound of days gone by, when albums were recorded in 7 days and you were excited to open your gatefold vinyl for the first time.

Holding On is an album which adds further credibility and quality to the genre, and of classic albums we have grown up with. The album is a grower and the more listen, the more you grasp the depth of influences which have inspired this band to write it.  I can only hope that Freedom Hawk continue to produce albums of this quality, because if they do, Holding On is the beginning of very bright future for them.  This album is choc full of hooks, groove and muscular riff and to top it off, excellent vocals. To quote Cheech Marin, ‘Holy sheep shit! It’s guitar Heaven!  I can’t recommend this album highly enough.  Go buy it!

Big thanks to Scott Hamilton of SS Recordings for allowing us to review their music.  There will be more to come from this incredible label over the coming weeks.  Check out the links below for more info on the band and where to buy their music.  I have also posted a video below to their outstanding song 'Edge Of Destiny'.
Small Stones Recordings


Nuclear_Dog said...

Strange review. Claims there is an oversaturation of bad stoner rock. That's not been my experience. showcases dozens of new music weekly, MOST of it very good. Surprisingly so. In fact, I'd say that genre for genre Stoner Rock outshines them all. Freedom Hawk is a one of the many exceptional bands that fit into this genre, despite "Holding On" not being as strong as their self-titled album or "Sunlight". In addition to this wonderful band are other Small Stone Records offerings from Sasquatch, Roadsaw, House of Broken Promises, and many others that are the highest quality rock you'll find out there. There are bands out there you're never going to hear from all over the world that play better music than anything you listen to now. Truckfighters, Astroqueen, Arenna, Mangoo, Cortez, Vile Red Falcons, The Midnight Ghost Train, Pelican, Mt. Olympus. . . I could go on and on. The fact is that stoner rock is NOT saturated with anything other than great music.

The Doomentor said...

Thanks for your comment. Guess its a matter of opinion, I agree there is great bands out there, but for every great band there are twice as many that are poor.
I did say small stones release great stuff. It is only my opinion, the same can b said for many other genres too. Think you're detracting from the point of the review, which was to highlight how great freedom hawk are.
That's the beauty if music and reviews, opninion is subjective. Thanks for your comment.

The Doomentor said...

Thanks for the recommendations.