Review & Track Premiere: Freedom Hawk, Beast Remains

freedom hawk beast remains

[Click play above to stream ‘Danger’ from Freedom Hawk’s new LP, Beast Remains. Album is out March 23 on Ripple Music with preorders available, and Freedom Hawk begin a European tour April 25. Click here to pop out the tour poster.]

It’s now been a decade since Virginia Beach heavy rockers Freedom Hawk released their full-length debut, Sunlight. If one looks at the trajectory of their career since — in terms of profile and craft alike, it is a steady upward curve. That is, they have never put out a record that wasn’t a marked progressive step forward from the one before it, and they’ve never failed to grow their audience with each new offering. Sunlight, as it happens — amazing how these things work out — was reissued last year as Freedom Hawk‘s first outing for Ripple Music, after two albums through Small Stone in 2015’s Into Your Mind (review here) and 2011’s Moving On (review here) and the prior 2009 self-titled (review here), which was issued by MeteorCity.

Their fifth long-player, Beast Remains, finds their processes in a state of even further refinement, reaffirming some things that have always been true about them as a band while pushing them ahead into new territories and new trajectories that even Into Your Mind didn’t hint at, all the while cutting back from 52-minute to a crisp 40-minute LP runtime, giving Beast Remains a sans-nonsense sensibility that rests well alongside their long-since proven songwriting acumen. Their growth process has been steady and incremental, and in some ways, tracks like “Danger,” Champ” and “Deep Inside” are continuations of a thread of craft the band has been weaving for the last 10 years, guiatarist/vocalist T.R. Morton remaining a central presence in delivering memorable hooks across the span, alongside bassist Mark Cave, drummer Lenny Hines and guitarist Brendan O’Neil.

Freedom Hawk have always struck me as a comfortable band. They push themselves creatively — one can hear it almost immediately on album opener “Solid Gold” just how much they’ve moved past their core influences and developed their own sonic persona — but in terms of their pacing their writing style, a persistent smoothness of production, and the general laid-back spirit that permeates even the most driving of their songs, they’ve never been an act looking to challenge their listeners in the name of some grand artistic statement or something like that. They’re a rock band. They rock. Their material is rife with hooks, whether it’s “Solid God” with Cave‘s bassline underscoring the guitars amid double-kick gallop and Morton leading the way through the chorus, or the classic-metal-style swing of “Danger” and the later title-track and the subsequent motor-riffing “Deep Inside,” the initial Judas Priest-style chug of which is prevalent enough to earn its early lyrical reference to a “ripper.”

freedom hawk

But they’ve never been an act who’ve sounded like they’re physically pushing themselves, even in the multi-layered solo section of “Deep Inside” or the prior NWOBHM-meets-Bark-at-the-Moon-ery of “Darkness and the Light,” and while in the past I’ve associated that with a kind of lackadaisical side to their approach — the thought being they found their niche early and are content to reside in it — as they somewhat contrast some of that with the more metallic turns of Beast Remains, I can’t help but think maybe what I was hearing all that time was just the fact that they’re beach bums. East Coast beach bums, and so of a generally more intense variety than they’d be if they hailed from, say San Diego, but beach bums nonetheless. Some of the psychedelia of Into Your Mind, which on the whole is greatly dialed back here, shows up in a trippy semi-jam in the second half of “Brutal Winds,” or in the reverb-soaked soloing in the second half of the penultimate “Coming After You,” but even that is delivered with substantial force, and one would say the same of “Champ” as it closes out.

But that beach bum vibe remains, and I think it’s part of the reason — see also: fuzz — one so often finds Freedom Hawk compared to Fu Manchu. However, something else that Beast Remains proves without question is that Freedom Hawk are a two-guitar band. The harmonies on “Champ,” or the lead lines that intertwine throughout the ultra-catchy “Darkness and the Light” only demonstrate what the band probably already knew. Into Your Mind was tracked as a three-piece and even that used layering to affect a dual-guitar sound. On Beast RemainsO’Neil gets a chance to make  standout first impression alongside Morton, and he doesn’t flub it. The guitars sound revitalized on cuts like “Brutal Winds,” “Deep Inside” and “Solid Gold,” though I’d argue it’s the bass and drums leading the way on that opening track. That in itself is a point of growth for Freedom Hawk, whose approach has remained organic despite the smoothness of the actual recording and the focus still very much placed on the riffs themselves throughout.

It’s a fascinating balance Freedom Hawk have found over the last 10 years in their sound, between pushing themselves forward and remaining true to who they are creatively and in terms of their craft. Their sound is recognizable immediately as their own even s it moves into new territories with Beast Remains, and there’s no question they benefit from keeping to an ultra-manageable 40-minute runtime, which lets songs like “Darkness and the Light” and “Coming After You” function all the more as individual standouts on this strong collection of quality material. Perhaps that’s been the most consistent thing about Freedom Hawk over the last 10 years. I don’t think they’ve ever wanted to change or rule the world — but simply to carve out their own place within it, so that those who can get down with it will do so. Beast Remains, as their fifth album, stands out as proof of just how much they’ve been able to do that during their time together, setting forth the parameters of who they are and want to be and accomplish as a band and then working like hell to make that happen on their own terms, slowly changing over time, but consistent in several key facets, among them the quality of the output itself.

Freedom Hawk on Thee Faceooks

Freedom Hawk on Bandcamp

Freedom Hawk on Twitter

Freedom Hawk website

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Review & Track Premiere: Freedom Hawk, Beast Remains

  1. Mike M says:

    Cracking Review JJ. I am really looking forward to this release. Danger sounds great and like you say those two guitars are there to be heard.

  2. Rick C says:

    Love these guys. Can’t wait to see them live at desert fest in London along with Black Moth. Surprised you guys didn’t review their latest album

Leave a Reply