A Viscerally Delightful Blend
This a weary and tired genre to be playing with. Hard rock, and the fringes of metal that it has long played with, have often been lumped into the most weary halls of lowest common denominator rock. The genre’s sole purpose seems to be catered to the interests of middle aged men on freshly purchased Harley Davidson’s that have never left the city, but feel as though they can claim the flyover nation as their own. Regardless of the intent of artists operating within the genre sphere, the national perception has set itself in firm opposition to the sound. In a way, hard rock artists should look at this perception not with disdain or anger, but hope, when the entire world turns its eyes away, it allows the ignored to toil away in secrecy, creating sprawling masterpieces for their leagues of devoted fans, and on Genkaku, the dream team of Low Flying Hawks does just that.
The album opens with “Smile” which, despite its endless predictability is a rather enjoyable listen. The song would feel wholly at home opening for a band like Tool. This makes sense considering the rhythm duo of the band, comprised of Dale Crover and Trevor Dunn of Melvins and Mr.Bungle, and features contributions from Buzz Osborne (also of Melvins) , opened for Tool earlier in the summer. The influences of their former work is worn plainly on their sleeves, and while this may be a disappointment for those looking for something groundbreaking, others will take solace in the fact that Melvins have been among the most respected acts in the genre, and are one of the few to break away from the unfair assumptions of hard rock, and as a result, Low Flying Hawks also breaks the perception.
The two major standouts on the record are “Virgin Witch” and the closer “Sinister Waves.” “Virgin Witch” is violently sludgy and features drop tuned guitars that grumble gutturally over feedback loops on cranked up amplifiers, there’s washed out guitar solo’s and drawn out ethereal singing that brings to mind some of the work from Mastodon. The song is among the longer ones on the album and as such goes through numerous changes in pace and tone but it does so slowly and deliberately, clearly imitating the greats of the doom or sludge genre, but even more so engage in amplifier worship reminiscent of Boris or SunnO))) and makes for a less punishing, but equally engaging listen.
“Sinister Waves” on the other hand is a much more classic hard rock listen. The crackling amplifiers are still ever present but find themselves sequestered lower into the mix as a deliberate and driving rhythm pushes the song ever onward. Once the track crawls its way through a lengthy intro, it becomes a force of nature, the whole mix drops low and we get the strongest example of screamed vocals on the album thus far. The whole back mix explodes into a guttural roar atop cleanly sung ethereal vocals, creating the most engaging listening experience of the album.
Hard rock may be derided and metal may be misunderstood, but this form of worship is hard to take the wrong way. Genkaku is a stunning amalgamation of a range of hard rock and heavy metal influences seamlessly blended together to make an essential listening experience on the year. It’s unlikely to convert many detractors, though those who have fallen into the deep end of heavy music will certainly find things to pull them up from the pools of doom and drone. This is an album for the stalwarts and the diehards, who will have endless fun picking out the hundreds of subtle and not so subtle influences that dance across this album in perfect harmony.