Review Summary: Michael Moorcock helps the band achieve the Warrior on the Edge of Time of the 1980s. Hawkwind – A trip through Space, Part XIV Michael Moorcock returns
Thirteen albums in twelve years had proved too much for Hawkwind. After the release of Choose Your Masques the band decided to ease back on the studio, preferring to spend a few years on the road touring away. Finally as 1985 rolled over, Hawkwind headed back into the studio once more in collaboration with Michael Moorcock. The science fiction author allowed them use of his work, the chronicles of Elric of Melniboné.
When Hawkwind came back to the studio, they had gone through their standard routine of changing their band members, with Nik Turner leaving the band for the final time just as they were about to enter the studio. Bainbridge also left his bass guitar slot to focus entirely on the keyboards, leaving Alan Davey to plug the hole left by him, as such the line-up on this album is:
Dave Brock - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Huw Lloyd-Langton - guitar, vocals
Harvey Bainbridge - keyboards, vocals
Alan Davey - bass guitar, vocals
Danny Thompson Jr. - drums
Dave Charles – percussion
Black Sword is a brilliant call back to that classic era of Hawkwind, with a hard rock base smothered in layers of space rock. Bainbridge can fully flex his keyboard muscles now that the bass guitar is left to Davey, who preforms admirably behind the 4 strings, in a style reminiscent of Lemmy from all those years ago.
There is not much to be said about this album that hasn't been said about Hawkwind before. Musically they are on top of their game, Langton provides some brilliant guitar work, especially during the song 'Needle Gun'. Bainbridge is by far a better keyboardist than a bassist and his keyboard work is some of the funkiest space grooves that you will ever hear. Whether it is the fast and blasting keyboards on 'The Sea King' or the slow and meaningful wails on the song 'Zarozinia', the keyboard work merges with the music brilliantly.
'Needle Gun' gets a special mention and wins the award for 'Best song on the album' with it's catchy rock chorus, brilliant guitar work from Langton and excellent drumming from Thompson Jr.. This song easily sounds like it could have been a song from the classic era of Hawkwind, and wouldn't sound out of place on Grill or Warrior.
But every good side has a bad side, and Black Sword's bad side is that Hawkwind feel repetitive, especially towards the end of the record. Hawkwind have lost some of that style and substance that they had earlier in their career and most of their work sounds as though it has seen better days. In addition some of the melodies have been used before and this adds to their troubles, there is simply nothing left in Hawkwind's repertoire which hasn't been heard before at some point.
In the end, Chronicle is an album that Hawk fans should pick up and listen to. The band are passed their heyday and whilst the songs don't sound so fresh, nor do they sound quite so spectacular as they did during their earlier period, there is a certain sort of charm to them. This is Hawkwind's more mature side, they've reached their peak and are now content with staying within their boundaries. They have nothing more to prove to anyone, they have shown the world what they can do. Now it is time to relax and ride the tide.