Finding myself with a little free time on my hands this past week, I decided to snag an extra promo from the sump and try my luck with some unknown acts. I got lucky enough with Last Days of Eden, so I doubled down and went back for more, grabbing a promo from Virginia’s Freedom Hawk, and wouldn’t you know it, I’m on a bit of a roll here. Freedom Hawk play retro rock with stoner influences, often sounding like a mish-mash of vintage Black Sabbath, Clutch and Queens of the Stone Age. They seem to have been toiling away in relative obscurity, as Beast Remains is their fifth full-length, but what they deliver here suggests they should be reaching more ears and hearts, as there’s some righteous rock swagger and attitude to be found, along with monstrously catchy gems as well. This thing just screams summertime BBQ, cornhole tournaments and road trips, and it has me eagerly awaiting the days of shorts, flip-flops and ice buckets full of frostbitten brewskis.
Opener “Solid Gold” hit me like a ton of bricks from go, with its simple, crunchy lead riff and moody, emotive vocals. T.R. Morton sounds like Clutch‘s Neil Fallon mixed with Eddie Vedder and his laid back crooning is, in fact, solid gold and one continuous vocal hook you can’t wriggle free of. Add to that some smartly stripped-down instrumentation which grooves along with just enough urgency and you get a super ear-wormy cut I can’t stop spinning. It also had me searching for their back catalog before the song even hit the halfway point of spin one. Followup “Danger” is every bit as great, sounding like Black Sabbath in their prime as Morton adopts an Ozzy-esque modality. The bass pops and rumbles a la Geezer Butler and the simple but elegant riffs segue into slick and trippy little solos. There’s a strong “Children of the Grave” and “Under the Sun” vibe throughout and it’s seriously snappy, fist pumping stuff with endless replay value, reminding me of The Necromancers‘ sizzling debut. After this very impressive beginning I couldn’t help but wonder how these guys stayed under the radar with this kind of talent.
Sadly, the rest of Beast Remains can’t maintain this super high level of song craft, but that’s not to say things bottom out either. The remainder of Beast Remains is entirely enjoyable, with tracks like “Darkness and Light” showing a more relaxed but still rocking side with pieces of Kyuss floating in the creative guitar ooze. The rowdy, Clutch-like attack of “Brutal Winds” and the high energy “Deep Inside” are both perfect for tossing back a few with ne’er do well friends, and the Sabbath meets Monster Magnet title track is a moody, sleazy beast of bourbon. There are no weak tracks, even if the majority of the album cannot live up to the great expectations created by that monster opening one-two punch.
I’m nothing but impressed by the singing of T.R. Morton. He shifts and morphs his delivery from song to song to suit its vibe and he’s quite versatile. He also has that “it factor” you want in a vocalist. He’s not going to blow you away with a crazy octave range, but he’s very soulful and expressive and suits the music perfectly. He and newcomer Brendan O’Neil knock it out of the park guitar-wise, littering the album with groovy, funky riffs, trippy solos and memorable flourishes, balancing grit and testosterone with mood and feeling. Mark Cave is a beast on bass, rumbling along with all the Steve Harris and Geezer Butler aggression you could want. He’s very audible and essential, especially on tracks like “Danger.” The whole band is tight as hell and rocks hard whilst riding free across the albums short but sweet 42 minute runtime.
Sometimes when you take a flyer in the promo sump, you come up smelling like roses (and old bologna for some reason). This was one of those times, thanks to the good timey rock acumen of Freedom Hawk. If you’re prepping that summertime party playlist, Beast Remains will be a welcome addition sure to please. They can take away our wives and knives, but they can never take our Freedom Hawk!