Style: Folk/Pirate Metal
Release Date: 4 Jan 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | YouTube
One of the things I do outside of Apocalypse Later is to MC fashion shows for my better half, usually to showcase steampunk characters at conventions, and I select music for each model that fits which persona they're wearing at the time. The music of Ancient Hawks, which appears to be a single gentleman in Tokyo, would be tailor made for that sort of use. I'd suggest film soundtracks too, but this is too up front for the background need of most filmmakers.
What Ancient Hawks does is to create soundscapes, an approach that has apparently led Google to classify this as 'new age', even though it would scare the skin off your average peace loving hippie. Instead of birdsong and babbling brooks, this gentleman envisages drinking bouts and pirate battles, so this is as upbeat and in your face as Yanni isn't. You shouldn't be meditating to this music, you should be raising your drinking horn high and trying not to fall over drunk.
That engagement is the best thing about this album, the second for Ancient Hawks after last year's Leviathan. It's impossible to ignore so, if you make it through a couple of tracks, it's going to have you wide awake and either exploring the structures of the songs with your mind or whistling, swaying or tapping your feet. Maybe dancing is another purpose here, as there are plenty of pirate jigs in the mix. I might enjoy weddings that put material on like this instead of the usual Jackson 5 or Robson and Jerome.
The worst thing is that most of it sounds eerily similar. At one point, halfway in, I actually checked to make sure I didn't have the first song on repeat. Each of the ten compositions is a four minute or so slice of pipes and keyboards floating over driving guitars and rapid drums. Maybe the precise instruments vary and maybe the lead guitar solo finds a slightly different melody but it's hard to distinguish between them and I couldn't pick any one out for particular praise or condemnation. If you like one, you can't not like all the others.
If you twisted my arm and forced me to pick a favourite, I'd plump for The Cave of Wonders, because it has a bell at the beginning of it and what sounds like a smithy working away towards the end and that made it stand out. But hey, outside that, it's right back to the same frenetic folk/pirate metal instrumental that we've just heard and which we're about to hear more of. And why would the blacksmith be highlighted in The Cave of Wonders rather than Blacksmith? Answers on the back of a postcard, please.
This is one of those albums that is simply what it is. It's done well, but as Frank tells Ozzy in my favourite movie of all time, Bad Taste, "that's elevator music for headbangers". Check out any random track on Ancient Hawks's YouTube channel and you will have solid knowledge of the entire album and whether it's something you'll be into or not. Well, unless you're shooting a silent pirate movie, in which case you'll want to dive a little deeper.