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Holding on (CD)
Freedom Hawk's third official release, 2011's Holding On, alights upon planet stoner rock with abnormally tall expectations, and justifiably so, since even the praise singling out the band as "the East Coast's answer to Fu Manchu" doesn't do full justice to the diversity of their songwriting gifts. Yes, the Virginia Beach residents traffic in the same turbo-powered grooves as the desert rock stalwarts, but they embellish thrilling highlights like "Thunderfoot," "Living for Days", and "Magic Lady" with incremental ingredients ranging from doom-like power chords, sinuous guitar leads, psychedelic melodies, and sporadic, softer dynamics when called for -- all of which easily set them apart in their own right (no disrespect meant to Fu Manchu). Another calling card that may not rub everyone the right way is T.R. Morton's high-pitched, obviously Ozzy-inspired nasal wail (tracks like "Edge of Destiny" and "North Swell" owe much to Black Sabbath in general, actually), but once the initial surprise subsides, this quality, too, meshes quite well with the group's authentic 70s rock aesthetic -- which can't be said, incidentally, about Sheavy's much more histrionic Steve Hennessey (no knock on Hennessey and Sheavy, though; they rock hard, too!). And even though Holding On s occasional stylistic detours, such as the gentle interlude "Zelda" or the wah-wah-assisted, ZZ Top boogie of "Bandito" don't exactly measure up to the surrounding groove-driven comfort zone, they're hardly distracting or forced-sounding experiments, as might be heard from, for example, Queens of the Stone Age. In sum, Freedom Hawk are just plain impressive on this here album, and perhaps the biggest compliment one can pay them is that it'll likely send listeners scurrying to grab copies of their prior efforts, looking for more where this came from. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi
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