The Hawkins – Live In The Woods EP
The Sign Records
Release Date: 29/01/2021
Running Time: 26:57
Review by Steven Hooke
The Hawkins are a Swedish four-piece rock band that have mastered an apparently difficult art of looking at past influences – most notably Queen – and learning from and adapting their style, instead of half-arsedly copy and pasting into a dreck, rip-off AOR band. Their sophomore album “Silence Is A Bomb” came out in September 2020 and was a super fun, hard rock album that took those core principles of early Queen such as crunchy, toe-tapping rock with sprinklings of glam and merged that with modern alt rock, garage rock and blues.
The album is littered with house party rock anthems thanks to a crisp guitar tone, and vocal hooks from frontman Johannes Carlsson, with songs like ‘Roomer’, ‘Cut Moon Bleeds’ and ‘Libertine’ being the stand-out performers. The band’s itchy feet and a willingness to do literally anything at the moment to replace live music (a feeling I feel is shared amongst all music fans across the globe) led them to a two-part, live recording experience, split between performances in the Swedish forests and inside Brasstacks Brewing, who brewed the band’s liquid refreshment: the Olsson Lager, in what might be the single most Swedish sentence I’ve ever written.
The seven-track live EP begins with the in-the-wilderness part which sounds remarkable given the environment, and is a collection of all of the best songs from the album. The opener ‘Hilow’ is a perfect road trip song, heart-warming in its delivery as it details the ups and down of a relationship; think The Hives covering Foo Fighters. It’s a steady start to the “show” that breaks into the swaggering ‘Stranger In The Next Room’ that sound studio-tight which might be the best testament of a band given modern audio trickery and tomfoolery.
They then change the game almost entirely, turning ‘Black Gold’ into a bluesy garage punk bop, having previously been an up-tempo folk-rock ditty on the album. It remains a foot-stomping, enjoyable track, providing you can get past the repeated line of “…I’m wishing for Cancer to come…” which hits about as hard as finding out what ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ by Foster the People is really about. The band then finish their woodland sessions with undeniable rager and one of their strongest tracks, ‘Libertine’.
We then join The Hawkins in their brewery sessions which somehow does feel more “live”, probably due to the acoustics of being surrounded by actual walls. ‘Roomer’ acts as the first proper song on “Silence Is A Bomb” and is sure enough a decent, energy-builder to really get the album going. In this live setting though, it becomes apparent that it is going to be such a great song for crowd interaction, not just from its easy-going feeling or Johannes’ unwaveringly good vocal hooks, bolstered even further by backing vocals of Martin, Mikael and Albin, but the post-solo break of rhythmic clapping that will sound like a barrage of firecrackers when put in front of people. It’s a similar story with ‘Cut Moon Bleeds’, in the studio, it sounds like such an important song for the band throughout their career, but in this pseudo-live scenario, it sounds like the song that will be a staple of theirs that people clamour for 10, 20, 30 years down the line.
We round off back at the forest sessions, where the band retreated to a nearby barn for ‘Fisherman Blues’. Just as expected, it absolutely slams in a live setting, with the accompanying female vocals adding extra gravitas as the song explodes following the most appropriate of lines: “…wait until the hook comes back up; ripping you apart…”. A herculean chorus with another fantastic vocal performance that will send shivers down your spine as you neck a Scandinavian IPA and fist-pump your hand through the ceiling.
The Hawkins are an effortlessly enjoyable band making the most out of a crummy situation. What this live EP has proven (along with a whole bunch of videos from the sessions if you’re really conspiracy theorist about them) is that not only are they just organically great-sounding musicians, with barely a difference between their studio and live sound, but they’ve shown the level of live chops they possess that will send crowds nuclear with excitement. They were already trying to tour the UK before COVID struck so as soon as BoJo pulls his finger out, shall we try for round two lads? Snälla?
01. Hilow (Live In The Woods)
02. Stranger In The Next Room (Live In The Woods)
03. Black Gold (Live In The Woods)
04. Libertine (Live In The Woods)
05. Roomer (Live At Brasstacks Brewing)
06. Cut Moon Bleeds (Live At Brasstacks Brewing)
07. Fisherman Blues (Live In A Barn)
Johannes Carlsson – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Mikael Thunborg – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Martin Larsson – Bass, Backing Vocals
Albin Grill – Drums, Backing Vocals
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