Hawkeyes/Shooting Guns – ‘Brothers Of The Nod’ (2015)
I don’t know how an instrumental psych album could get much better than this for me. It combines two of my absolute favorite bands onto alternating sides of 12” wax to devastating results.
I’ve long been a proprietor of the brutal psychedelic sludge of Shooting Guns (interview here), I was a convert from the moment I bought their first LP Born To Deal Magic years ago. Since then they’ve been nominated several times for Juno awards, released a sold-out follow-up album, started their own record label (interview here) and even did the soundtrack to their first film Wolf Cop in 2014, which was released to some incredible reviews (My Own Here), sold-out almost instantly and has recently been repressed, this time by One Way Static (pick this up now while you have the chance if you missed out the first time around!!!). Now Shooting Guns has joined forces with fellow Canadian psychedelic doom purveyors Hawkeyes (interview here) and Helmet Lady Records, whose first release was actually the long overdue vinyl edition of Hawkeyes’ debut long-player Poison Slows You Down which had only previously been self-released by the band on cassette and had to wait an excruciating two plus years for the much deserved wax treatment. While Helmet Lady is fairly new, if their releases so far are any indication of what kind of stuff they’re going to be dropping in the future you can sign me right the hell up!
Their most recent twelve-inch slab of pure psychedelic psychosis they’ve unleashed is the Shooting Guns/Hawkeyes split Brothers Of Nod – the thing is just absolutely jaw-dropping. Side-A is all Shooting Guns tearing it up with their signature slow-moving, face pummeling, chest jarring signature doom attack but it seems like they’ve retained a lot of what they learned on sessions for both their Juno nominated album Brotherhood Of The Ram and the Wolf Cop soundtrack, which had to be a very explorative time for these guys, digging into hidden crevices and cracks of their mind they’d never even considered tapping before; and it shows. Hawkeyes on the other hand have had several years of near complete blackout to work on their sound for anyone who can’t readily make it to a show. Save for a single track released on a compilation for the Shooting Guns’ operated label Pre-Rock House Of Burners (which is an absolute must own compendium of amazing Canadian acts going right now) there had been several years of almost complete silence. They apparently put the time to good use, completely refining their vision of cacophonic noise and blistering explosions of sound, and honing a much more tempered dark and foreboding side, a sound like the slow pulsating rhythmic hum of a dying star imploding in on itself from the sheer power and mass contained therein. In fact while extremely well titled, Brothers of The Nod could just as easily be called Dwarf Star as it carries the listener to the outer reaches of space and consciousness… Brothers of The Nod opens with Shooting Gun’s “Mega Volcano” feedback and distortion spill out of your speakers, exploding with what I can’t help but call an almost proto-punk rhythm, very reminiscent of early Stooges before really kicking things into high gear where the skull bashing clamor of distorted instruments erupts into full bloom. The quick driving melody rockets along side the accompanying lead lines, with solos adding small cracks and openings and changing things up ever so slightly, before the guitar then sneers and howls like a wounded animal. Three minutes into “Mega Volcano” things start to get hot and heavy, just the way I like ‘em. The guitar has reached a blistering crescendo, howling solos bubbling over the din of rhythmic sounds, and just when they seem to have reached a bursting point, almost boiling over with feedback, fuzz and a concoction of sheer sound and unbelievably precise lead lines – things get even heavier! The keys kick in and slam headlong into the rhythm of “Mega Volcano”, the hammered keys blip in and out of existence for a while until they’re finally swallowed whole by the carnivorous slithering tentacles of the guitar and the song shatters to an echoed remnant of looped screeching that slowly fades out to “Halls Of Grief”. “Halls Of Grief” sounds like it would have been happily at home on Shooting Guns’ last album, the 2013 Juno nominated Brotherhood Of The Ram.
A slowly lurching apocalyptic riff on stilts, “Halls Of Grief” trundles through unsuspecting waysides demolishing and razing to the ground anything that stands in its path. The dissonant drowning guitars sound like the wails of woe from those trapped underneath the tow of the lumbering monster. The thunderous guitar riff only occasionally lets up to slip in some squealing lines of supposed retort to the unending shifting movement of the composition like platemale armor. The breakdown at four minutes almost seems impossible. The song gets even more concrete and slow moving, building momentum like a fist swung by a god from the heavens, until it’s like a blistering asteroid burning its’ way through the stratosphere and smashing into an unsuspecting earth. A slow moving tentacle of guitar reaches up from the gaping maw of sound at first, before showing its entire frame, crawling from its hidden lair to lay waste to anything it can sink its teeth into. Suddenly, just when things reach the fevered pitch of their madness, the peak withdrawals and seeps into the opening chords of “Heavy Dissent” without warning. The brooding sounds of crunchy fuzzed out guitars are joined by a hive of Carpentercore heavy bass end synthesizer notes that pay heavy homage to the work that they did on the recent Wolf Cop soundtrack. Wolf Cop has somehow honestly proven to be probably my favorite material of theirs yet, and “Heavy Dissent” sounds like it could just as easily be an outtake from those sessions as something they concocted later on their own time having taken a lot away from the experience and being the clever diverse fellows that they are. Either way, it showcases not only the unbelievable diversity that their music is capable of, but also how much they’ve learned, changed, and evolved as a band in the past few years, all the while still remaining true to the roots from whence they emerged – no simple task in this writer’s opinion. The slightly unhinged, dissonant melodies of “Heavy Dissent” sway back and forth, being led in turn by demonic marching calls from the bellowing synthesizers and the guitar, spouting it’s distortion drenched sermon of retort in the form of screams and howls aimed at the blackened and cold void of the ethereal soundscape Shooting Guns’ crafts. The farther you travel down the rabbit’s hole with “Heavy Dissent” the more things become disorienting and surreal, until finally they’re cracking and breaking down to a single pinpoint of noise that ebbs and breathes its last, slowly fading with an echoed call down the tube of cosmic sound it was summoned. Side-B is Hawkeyes’ domain, and I was dying to hear what they had in store.
Their contribution to the Pre-Rock Records compilation House Of Burners “March Of The Elephants” had been the only thing I had heard from these guys since Poison Slows You Down in 2013 (which as I mentioned was only released earlier this year on LP by Helmet Lady Records) when I first discovered them. That being the case I was astonished by what I heard on this album. They have not rested on their laurels, far from it, instead driving themselves to new musical depths, plumbing the recess of their creative process to summon forth a heavy helping of music that is much in the same vein as their first release, but extremely refined and perfected. “Hotter Than Ten Hundred Suns” opens their side with a melancholy echoing guitar, reverberated and distant. They’re then joined slowly by a wider range of sound, the drums introducing slow stabs of sound into the mix. The hypnotic sway of the galactic sounds build and grow until they’re burst at the seams with a devastatingly heavy riff which proceeds to crash land in the middle of the serene landscape. The impact crater that it leaves is instantly filled by thundering bass and measured drums that blanket the surrounding landscape with decimating bombardments of deafening combustion.
Then, slipping once again into a simpler, more restrained groove, Hawkeyes push the keys. They pop their head up from the receding wall of sound and interlock themselves with softly crooned leads from the guitars, all the while aided by a growing veil of spacious distortion and veil of melding melodies and rhythms that fade the song out after about nine minutes. There’s some in-studio audible dialogue at the beginning of “The Charred Skull Of McLean Stevenson” which almost took me off guard for a second when I first heard it. But the more I listen to the album the more it’s grown on me. It’s nice to hear people making this kind of music that don’t have to be do deadly serious about it all the time to the point to where they feel like they need to where a mask or something. It’s great to take your craft seriously, and Hawkeyes most certainly do that, but they don’t feel the need to project any sense of being bad asses more than they really are or anything, they simply are who they are. Not only do I respect the hell out of that, but who they are never ceases to amaze me. The slowly building unction of keys along with what sounds like yowling synthesizers combine with the heady stew of fuzzy wah-ed out guitars and bass to create an unhinged wobbling web of intergalactic proportions. If you listen closely to “The Charred Skull of McLean Stevenson” you cal almost hear the UFOs swinging in and out of the mix as they land take off, attack and are eventually blown out of the sky.
The faintly Egyptian sounding keyboard progression keeps making insistent demands that what you’re hearing is indeed happening on this planet, it’s just not necessarily of this world. The dwindling sputter of sounds that fade out of “The Charred Skull Of McLean Stevenson” give way to my favorite Hawkeyes track from Brothers Of Nod “Orange Monkey” (Hotter Reprise). It’s restrained but extremely heavy from the start, clocking in at only four minutes it’s also kind of short for most of the stuff that Hawkeyes usually offers up. It lacks none of the punch of their longer more protracted movements however, and gets straight to the base points of Hawkeyes: sprawling Dali-esque landscapes of sound with a platitude of repeated guitar leads and sporadic soloing that slice through the mix callously and viciously, even when they appear buried or at some points to have disappeared all together. The groove of “Orange Monkey” feels almost calm and cool, collected and restrained, but at the heart of the beast you can sense a burning inferno of power just waiting to be unleashed, a perfectly suitable way to close out this sweet split! Literally my only complaint with Brothers Of The Nod is that it is just a split 12”…
I wish this was a split double-LP or hell, gimme a triple! I want as many more albums from both of these bands as is humanly possible, I could listen to this stuff for days on end. What’s really cool about Brothers Of The Nod to me is that I think we’re getting a really good glimpse into not only what both of these amazing bands are capable of, that’s obvious, but we’re also seeing where they’re headed for in the future. Both Shooting Guns and Hawkeyes have so quickly begun to pick up steam in the past two years or so, that there’s no telling exactly where they’re headed from here, but Brothers Of The Nod is a pretty good indicator if I were to take a guess. I constantly pester Hawkeyes drummer Stacey Schmitt about what they’re up to and when they’re going to have something new out, so much so that he finally gave in and told me, “It’s going to be big! That I can say… It’s going to be big.” And on that rather intriguing if somewhat cryptic, but never the less exciting note, I suppose I’ll leave you with just a few details on how to pick this beast of an album up, because apparently Shooting Guns have already sold out of their ENTIRE stock of something like 200 Grey Smoke Colored LPs within a few days.
If you did manage one there, Helmet Lady Records still has some of the ‘American Version’ which comes on Opaque Tundra Vinyl and is limited to only 100 copies. There’s also the always highly coveted ‘Die Hard Version’ with Grey And White Swirl Color Vinyl and alternate artwork on a Silk Screened print by artist extraordinaire Roan Bateman (interview here) who also provided the regular artwork as well. I also believe that there’s a CD version of this that you can pick up if you don’t have a turntable, so there’s no excuses! You can not go wrong with this album, and it’s likely not going to stick around long if the Shooting Guns pre-order selling out is any indication.
So, pick this baby up now while you can at the link below or forever be kicking yourself for it…
– Roman Rathert
Hawkeyes/Shooting Guns – Brothers Of The Nod (Helmet Lady Records 2015)