Music review by Richard Lewis 22/12/2010
Released on acclaimed independent label Brew, Leeds metallers Chickenhawk’s debut album arrives with a certain weight of expectation. Fortunately these challenges are largely met as the band capitalizes on their incendiary live shows. Opener Scorpieau sets the template for much of what follows, flailing drums, desperate strangulated vocals, rumbling bass and frenetic guitar riffage. A refreshing variation on the angsty teenage preoccupations of My Chemical Romance or the lightweight thrashing of Lostprophets, Fightstar and a myriad other ‘post-hardcore’ bands, Chickenhawk are nearer to vintage 1980s Metallica, minus James Hetfield’s vocal growl.
Single NASA vs. ESA, chronicling the 1950s-60s space race goes a long way to proving they can easily eschew the doomy lyrics usually associated with metal and emo, the gonzoid chorus of ‘Take me to the moon man/In a tin can’ proving a particular highlight. Son of CERN, possibly the only track concerning the Swiss hadron collider, continues the scientific theme without wallowing in the pomposity Muse are wont to do when tackling similar subjects. Switching between mid-tempo buzzsaw riffing, thrashed choruses and all-out screaming apocalypse in a little over four minutes, Chickenhawk’s economy throughout is worthy of praise, displaying a Ramones-esque knack of getting the songs done and dusted without wandering off into the musical ether.
Key track and lead-off single I Hate This, Do You Like It? hurtles along on a Van Halen-esque guitar riff, reviving the ancient art of string-tapping along the way. Brave enough to revive a guitar technique long discarded by most rock acts without tiresome Darkness-esque irony, driven by frenetic drumming the track deftly crams what sounds like four different songs into one track maintaining the claustrophobic tension throughout its five minutes.
Elsewhere, Gravitronic Life-ray Table crashes along in a lopsided gallop, its distorted vocal recalling nineties metal titans Pantera crossed with The Fall. Outstaying its welcome, the track dispenses with the brevity found earlier on the LP. Concluding track Bottle Rocket however pulls in the slack, reminiscent of Soundgarden in particularly venomous form, fading out on a wistful acoustic arpeggio. Frontloaded with the strongest tracks of the album on side one in old money, and a dip in quality during the second half, Modern Bodies reclaims many of the base elements metal and heavy rock have discarded over recent years and breathes new life into them.
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