I have been reviewing albums in an Olympic like capacity (i.e. lots of hard work and no pay) since writing for Cop Out magazine back in the early noughties and have listened to everything from Black, Death, Shoegaze, Grind, acoustic and every desert band and weed inspired jam from the Southern States to the murky depths of er, France.
The point is I have heard some fantastic, life changing records like Author & Punisher’s Drone Machines. I have heard some laughably dire ones (no, I’m not going to be that guy…) and I have heard a boat load of ones that lived on my playlist during the time I reviewed them and have never, ever listened to them again. Some of them I couldn’t pick them out of a line up if they set themselves on fire.
Harsh but true. As Mötley Crüe said at the start of Saints Of Los Angeles “For every four, there will be 100,000 fallen”. Being in a band is a tough gig.
Some records however just come out of nowhere and grab you by the scruff of the neck from the moment you press play; War Moans by Mutoid Man was probably the last album I didn’t expect to rock my world that wouldn’t leave my play rotation. In fairness, I had no expectation of Woodhawk (sorry boys) – I read the accompanying promo blurb and thought, yeah I’ll take a listen, but wasn’t prepared to be blown away by it or have so much fun listening to Violent Nature and be so moved by some of the tracks.
Building on the momentum of their critically acclaimed debut Beyond The Sun in 2017, here the band brush away all notion of the curse of the sophomore album by cranking up their sound to the proverbial 11 and letting themselves breathe.
Having gone back and listened to Beyond The Sun, it’s the sound of a band finding their feet and showcases the talent that Woodhawk have, but had I listened to that on release I question it if would have made the impact it’s follow up did.
The nine tracks recorded in Rain City Recordings with Jesse Gander (3 Inches of Blood, BISON) burst with energy and leap from the speakers with a clarity and power that is a credit to all involved.
Violent Nature surpasses their debut and then some; the Rocky Mountain trio have harnessed the best of the past, given it a fresh coat of paint, made me smile and just enjoy rock and roll in its purest form…
Unashamed in their retro influences, there are nods to the proto-boogie of Thin Lizzy, the chug of Ozzy era Black Sabbath, the skill and precision of Dio era Black Sabbath, but with a modern edge, shine and bounce that recalls the likes of Mastodon, The Sword and Priestess but without ever sounding derivative.
My initial thoughts of this album were that this would be a great party record as Snake In The Grass slams the whole thing into gear sounding like Symptom Of The Universe meets Lay Down meets early nineties Iron Maiden on the dance floor of a pissed up nightclub an hour before the fighting starts. The urgent riffing, the bouncing bass and clattering drums topped off by Turner Midzain’s commanding, captivating clarity.
This momentum is not spoiled by lead track Weightless Light; a towering muscular track with a slower pace and a huge anthemic chorus. Nor does Dry Blood which tries to throw you off with a wistful guitar intro, before battering the listener into submission with a canter that defies you not to bang your head until you see stars and sing the chorus until your lungs are hoarse.
The first five tracks raced past in such a joyous rush the first time I listened to Violent Nature that by the time I got to Clear The Air, the first truly slower format track, I was absolutely bummed out and my initial notes said “Don’t want the ballad”. However I couldn’t have been more wrong as the track morphs into a powerful, dense emotive piece and it’s raw sentiment in the chorus of, “No use in forgiveness when the damage isn’t even done” that reeks of 2am regret and smoky, whiskey drowned sorrow. Someone may have been cutting onions in the room when the track mysteriously got stuck on repeat.
This marks out Woodhawk as a multifaceted set of songwriters that wring every single bit of use from the three members. This album is chock full of tracks that will straight up punch you in the face and demand you dance your ass off. Tracks like the title track, like HeartStopper, and like Old Silence with its almost Miles Kennedy vocals. Then Clear The Air and the final two tracks the band show a depth, a dimension and the ability to tackle weighty subjects like mental health and addiction in a manner that wrenches at the heart strings and has you weeping at the beauty of their music and the message conveyed.
As A Friend is a hard listen that somehow still has you singing the chorus and as Our Greatest Weakness closes out asking the question “Is this the end for you and me my friend?” gives a sombre end to an album that was so much fun. However, these last two tracks add gravitas to the proceedings and don’t allow you to stick Woodhawk into a one dimensional box. As a listening experience it is a delight; the obvious had the immediate impact and the less obvious has grown with each listen until they rival many of the opening tracks in my affections.
Violent Nature surpasses their debut and then some; the Rocky Mountain trio have harnessed the best of the past, given it a fresh coat of paint, made me smile and just enjoy rock and roll in its purest form. We’re heading towards November at speed and I can confidently say that there are very few albums I have enjoyed more this year than this.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden