Review: Greyhawk – Call of the Hawk
As a layer of snow and frost cover the Midwestern wasteland, my thoughts and yearnings are drawn to memories of summer hangouts in the garage, beer in hand and Bluetooth speakers blaring in service to the ritual delights of Heavy Metal. Usually, these get-togethers are best served by platters that check a few boxes; namely a sense of fun, an attentive blend of instrumental pyrotechnics and catchiness, and a devotion to the classic tenets of the genre. Achieving this balance can be a difficult task, but Pacific Northwest traditionalists Greyhawk deftly capture all of this and more on EP Call of the Hawk.
The band cites classic trad, power, and shred metal acts as inspiration for their melodic and muscular sound, and this sense of stylistic assuredness is apparent from the first hits of opener “Steelbound”. With the very first NWoBHM pedal crunch of the main riff, the listener is instantly transported to a bygone era of swords, leather, and a capital R focus on Rock. Fans of Priest, Accept, Dio, and other classic bands of their ilk will find a lot to enjoy here, with a core sound owing much to these forebears, while also adding in elements of modern power and the ’80s Shrapnel repertoire.
As a lead guitarist myself and recovering shredaholic (who am I kidding?), I find that the biggest challenge in pursuing guitar solo-heavy music is to not lose the forest of songwriting for the trees of intricate guitar solos or virtuosic displays. The Shrapnel stable interests me more now in the context of what those instrumentalists were able to accomplish in bands later down the line, as opposed to hour long instrumental forays in the heyday of shred (not that it still isn’t cool). Old man-isms aside, luckily, Greyhawk’s resident shredders Jesse Berlin and Jacquelynn Ziel manage to always put the song first. This leads to a tight collection of fist-pumping anthems, with solid arrangements and memorable, catchy choruses and melodies. The tasty shred on display is the icing on the cake, and thankfully avoids being the cake itself.
Singer Rev Taylor gives a dedicated vocal performance and covers all the ground associated with this type of material with flair, occasionally bringing out a high range and doing his best Halford. It works, and it’s a lot of fun. The band plays to its strengths, and with this level of confidence and the songwriting chops to back up the proceedings, you really can’t help but smile and bang your head. The rhythm section of Darin Wall and Nate Butler on bass and drums respectively, gives a crisp and locked-in performance that highlights the arrangements and lets the melodies shine with a warm and classic heft.
“Demon Star” is a brisk highlight from the back half of the EP, with plenty of harmonized Racer X-isms on display and a barreling main riff followed by a sweet solo trade-off section. EP closer “Take the Throne”, the longest track at nearly 7 minutes, runs through several mood changes and evokes the feeling of a lost King Diamond track that would make Mr. Laroque and Mr. Petersen proud. Before the listener is aware, the 5 tracks that comprise the EP are through and its time to flip the cassette —er, playlist—back to the start.
On one hand, Greyhawk is questing on a path well-trod in the metalverse. The band doesn’t reinvent the wheel on Call of the Hawk, but the wheel that they worship isn’t one that necessarily needs reinvention. Instead, the band’s focused on honing a strong core sound that effectively hearkens back to the classics while still injecting enough personality and songwriting prowess to separate them from the pack. The love of—and dedication to—the style really shines through here, and when ethos, ability, and a focus on fun is at the musical forefront, one can look past an adherence to genre orthodoxy and just revel in the joy of banging your damn head. A fun and catchy blast of classic metal reborn.
4/5 Puffy Shirts ov Hell
Call of the Hawk is out now on Fighter Records.