Once upon a time the UK rock press would have tirelessly championed a band such as Hawk Eyes – homegrown, smart, inventive, daring and possessed of riffs capable of flaying skin at 20 paces. In the modern age however, when cheekbones > chord progressions in determining magazine cover stars, the Leeds collective remain very much on the peripheries of the industry, a cult concern still plying their trade on the toilet circuit a full ten years after their inception. At times on the sarcastically titled ‘Everything Is Fine’ – not least when Paul Astick sings “I make sounds but there’s no-one to make them for…” on ‘Die Trying’ or screams “Ain’t rock ‘n’ roll, this is suicide” on ‘Permission’ – one wonders if such concerns are weighing heavily upon the band. If they are, however, they’re clearly serving as inspiration, for ‘Everything Is Fine’ finds the quartet in unapologetically bellicose form, sounding more focussed, direct and dangerous than ever before…
Much like Mastodon or Queens of the Stone Age – two bands whose influence can be heard in tracks such as More Than A Million or the refined broodiness of album opener The Trap – Hawk Eyes have grown in self-assurance and boldness with each successive release since their origins on the underground circuit as Chickenhawk a decade ago. Rather than all-action flailing, the quartet now pick their punches carefully, mindful that space and dynamics accentuate rather than diminish the forcefulness of their attack and the impact of the blows they land. You can hear this new-found confidence in the measured grooves of Night Music and the majestic, rolling build of proggy seven minute closer TFF, the work of an animal surveying the landscape with narrowed eyes prior to going in for the kill. It suits the band rather well.
The devil, as always, is in the detail, and with producer Andy Hawkins pushing the band’s creativity, there are little sonic flourishes scattered throughout which elevate Everything Is Fine to a higher plateau than both their excellent debut Modern Bodies and 2012’s Ideas. It’s there in the Biffy-style vocal harmonies on Die Trying, the A Perfect Circle-style art-rock guitar underpinning TFF, the desperate, treated vocals on The Ambassador… thoughtful, purposeful innovations which signify a thorough dedication to fucking with heads just so.
Quite where all this will take Hawk Eyes is anyone’s guess. This is not a band that lacks ambition or shies away from opportunity – in the summer of 2013 Hawk Eyes joined System of a Down on a huge European arena tour, remember – but it remains to be seen whether their idiosyncratic, left-of-centre stylings can truly crossover to a) a metal crowd who considers them a bit weird or indeed b) an alt.rock crowd for whom they’re a little bit too rock. Such meditations though are best saved for another day, for right here, right now, Hawk Eyes sound monstrous – rejuvenated, muscular and ready to take on all comers. Their day may yet come.