Godless Summit by HawkmothRelease date: December 14, 2017
Label: Black Bow Records
Godless Summit is the second album by Australian doom/post-metal instrumentalists Hawkmoth. It’s like an EP, being only four tracks and 38 minutes long, but it’s actually the first of a two-parter. When the music’s this good, it’s hard being made to wait for the second half. Calamitas, the band’s 2014 debut, got a good reception, and Hawkmoth have built on this. The new songs have a sharpness and improved production that really helps the sound. And their brand of doom isn’t … doomy. Sure, it’s heavy, sometimes slow, but there’s more than that, and they don’t just rely on crushing sludgy, riffs to get the mood across. The guitar work is very melodic and catchy at times, showing an intricacy that rewards repeat listening.
There’s a boundless quality to the music Hawkmoth make – it reaches for the sky, with a cinematic feel symbolised very well by the eagle soaring over the mountaintop on the cover. The songs are long, giving them time to grow, and this is felt keenly in the first track, the title track, which starts with the sound of wind (blowing across said mountain, maybe); we don’t actually get a guitar for half a minute. When it starts, it’s a single picked melody over the top of that breeze. Then the other instruments come in, and the track starts to build. The gorgeous melody continues as the intensity escalates, until at about 3 minutes we get the first power chord, at which point the song changes shape, and all our Christmases come at once with a damn great riff that echoes Trouble and Candlemass and adds Hawkmoth’s atmospheric edge to make it their own.
Thirty eight minutes of that would have done me, but ‘Ibex’ brings us down from the mountaintop. A thundering riff underpins what for me is a slightly more pedestrian affair, less soaring. Good, but the title track is a tough one to follow. Next track, ‘Mala Fide’ has an expansive feel, and brings a more epic, post-metal sound to the album. There’s light and shade: open sections in which the tension builds are followed by crushing breaks. Halfway through there are snippets of sampled voices, but they’re very low in the mix and hard to hear. I like an instrumental with samples (Mayshewill’s ‘Not for the Want of Trying’ is a masterclass) and Hawkmoth could maybe have done more with this. But the post-rock nuances interspersed with the doomy riffing make this a great track.
The album closes with ‘Charnel Grounds’ which bookends very nicely with expansive opener ‘Godless Summit’. At 14 minutes this track builds and builds, never showing where it’s going until it gets there. The spirit of Monkey 3 and Dopes-era Monster Magnet are channelled, especially in the second half, where the band take their time to create a hypnotic sound that flies across the landscape they have created (I’m back with that eagle again). The repeating, mesmeric quality of this music held me in its spell, creating a trance as only the best mind-expanding music can.
Hawkmoth have taken doom as a starting point but have created an album that is so much more than a single genre, as much good music is. Heavy riffs, an ear for melody, careful pacing of each track and an emotionally uplifting, trance-inducing quality make this a must-have album. I can’t wait for the second half.