Review Summary: Leeds riff masters unveil their most accessible collection of songs to date.
Leeds-based riff masters Hawk Eyes have become increasingly difficult to pigeonhole. While their debut Modern Bodies
was easily defined by its propulsive post-hardcore tendencies, the record that followed presented a more complete picture of what Hawk Eyes are. Ideas
combined said post-hardcore with mathcore-derived technicality and a keen sense of melody. It resulted in a conundrum of an album that worked on every level imaginable, treading a fine line between engrossing genre experimentation, unbridled fury and great hooks which propelled the music in equal measure.
It's particularly telling that the band's frontman Paul Astick criticised the groups that cling to the same style for long periods of time during one of his most recent interviews. Hawk Eyes are anything but that, shrewdly altering styles even within the confines of a single song with songwriting dexterity and sharp focus to boot. The quartet rely on a hodgepodge of influences that range from alternative rock to various shades of hardcore and metal, and so their tremendous versatility makes them feel equally comfortable supporting on stage such divergent acts as Therapy? and System Of A Down.
The act's third full-length Everything Is Fine
doesn't exactly follow the formula of the quartet's previous record, favouring straightforward song structures over off-kilter shifts. The direction already signalled by 2013's EP That's What This Is
sees the band opting for grander hooks and more powerful melodies, which places an increased emphasis on Astick's improved vocals. He's still adept at handling maniacal screams, but also there's a new found vulnerability to his performance. His croons on 'Die Trying' are perfectly in line with the song's desperate tone reflecting on the ever so relatable notion of writer's block, while on 'More Than A Million' he advances from deliriously sleazy verses to soaring refrains.
As regards song craft, Hawk Eyes are still not afraid of taking chances. Opener 'The Trap' sounds like nothing this band have done before with its Tool-echoing angular rhythm giving way to an uplifting chorus and head-scratching finale. 'The Ballad Of Michael McGlue' is as playful as it is intriguing taking a cue from sea tales. Meanwhile, closer 'TFF' makes for a superb love song with its arresting progressions that balance dreamlike passages with visceral post-hardcore outbursts. These somewhat mellowed-out tracks certainly broaden the quartet's sonic palette. However, they're interspersed with much more familiar heavy rockers that feel both boisterous and tightly written. 'The Ambassador,' 'Permission,' and 'Terribly Quelled' are particularly phenomenal, blending punk-echoing aggression with deep grooves and a penchant for infectious motifs.
The album's sonic attack is built on the potent interplay between driving rhythm section and titanic guitar play. Hawk Eyes are at the top of their game in that regard, finding a comfortable middle ground between massive sludgy riffs and dissonant embellishments. Guitarist Rob Stephens proves highly resourceful as he delivers plenty of ear-piercing guitar solos that lend the music an additional edge. Even though Everything Is Fine
relies on a more streamlined songwriting approach than its triumphant predecessor, Hawk Eyes haven't lost their knack for causing havoc with their raucous brand of heavy rock. The group's rampant energy and ingeniousness have always been undeniable, but now they've successfully managed to point them into a more accessible direction.