Blood Of The Earth
posted on 8/2010 By:
Space-rock mainstay Hawkwind is in the beginnings of its fifth decade as a band (forty-one years and counting), perennial leader Dave Brock guiding these psychedelic warlords through twenty-plus studio albums now. The band’s back catalog is as daunting and confusing as any I’ve seen, filled with releases under different names (Hawklords, Psychedelic Warriors) and a slew of archival albums, both live and studio, many of questionable necessity and some of dubious quality. And yet, despite their lengthy career and their influence upon artists ranging from Joy Division to The Orb, Brock and his cohorts largely fly under the radar still. (Even after all that, especially to the majority of metal fans, it seems that they’re still most often mentioned as the band that once featured a pre-Motorhead Lemmy.)
On Blood Of The Earth, Hawkwind sticks to a modernized version of their signature sound, that space-rock blueprint they mastered in the early 1970s—driving rhythms, hypnotic in their repetition, with simple but equally trance-like proto-metallic riffage; swirling synthesizers and science-fiction fx that twist and turn atop that pulsing beat; simple vocal melodies sung in an accented voice that clearly influenced punk and its offshoots; periodic drops into dreamy synth-laden ambience or a bit of spoken-word weirdness. (Thankfully, the latter of these two is most rare.) They’ve managed to update their sound without changing it, fielding the addition of 21st century influences and technology—witness the dance-tinged intro "Seahawks," which is a fine start, or the full-on electronica feel of "Inner Visions," which follows the drifting synth-and-guitar instrumental "Green Machine," the tandem point at which Blood runs cold. After "Visions," the album struggles to regain the promise of the opening tracks, although "Prometheus" does right the ship momentarily, just before the end.
Where Blood falters is simply that, after forty-one years, Hawkwind sounds a bit tired, all in all a bit disjointed. I haven’t heard the effort previous to this one, 2005’s Take Me To Your Leader, so maybe the lack of spark that plagues most of Blood is a recurring problem for the aging masters of the universe. Only about fifty percent of Blood would qualify as actual "songs," true to space-rock wandering form; the rest are interstitial synth pieces, nearly new-age in their wafting weariness, and what songs do come are still about half-meandering themselves. When the band slides into that Hawkwind groove ("Wraith," "Prometheus," "You Better Believe It"), they still do it well, but given that those moments comprise only about thirty percent of Blood, it’s certainly not enough to save the rest from its own lack of memorable luster. As a whole, Blood feels tossed together, half-baked (and not in the good way); the presence of two re-recorded versions of previous tunes only confirms the absence of inspiration at the same time that it also reaffirms the band’s near-comical devotion to plundering and re-plundering their own history. (For anyone asking, those two tracks are 1974’s "You Better Believe It," from the grand Hall Of The Mountain Grill, and 1984’s lilting / chipper / forgettable "Sweet Obsession," originally on a Dave Brock solo release.) The album even ends on a pair of unnecessary instrumentals, as dreamy and drifting and devoid of definite density as their duller predecessors.
Upon my initial few spins, I would’ve rated Blood Of The Earth a bit higher—as I dug deeper, I found less below the surface than I’d hoped. While Blood isn’t a disaster, it wears quickly and leaves little impression, and even at its best, it’s certainly among Hawkwind’s more mediocre space-rock rituals, pale in comparison to Mountain Grill, Doremi Fasol Latido, Levitation…
As it stands, Litmus’ Aurora is still the best Hawkwind album I’ve heard in the last few years.
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