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Black Hawk – Destination Hell

Black Hawk
Destination Hell
by Rachel Montgomery at 12 March 2020, 10:32 AM

BLACK HAWK is a German Traditional Metal Band who got their start in 1989 with the release of their first EP. After a long hiatus, they came back in 2005 with their first album and have steadily cranked out albums since. Their seventh one is definitely a throwback, utilizing intense traditional stylings. However, the intensity only comes through with cranked up speakers.

The opening track, “Hate”, is a standard Traditional Metal piece. It’s intense and growling, but only if you listen at full volume. The growls and vocal screeches in the intro add some ambiance, but overall, the opening did not impress me on the first run. Maybe it would have been something to behold in 1982, but you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times. The song itself could be improved with more intensity, particularly the vocals, which are watered down by production. So, when I played it the first time, there was no bite, a cardinal sin in traditional, mainline metal.

Then, as I listened through the album, it dawned on me: the album was engineered to sound lackluster unless it was cranked to 11. Any lower than full blast, and the vocals are buried and the stinging jabs in the riff don’t come through. Unless you’re cranking it, you’re not getting the full experience. Fine by most metal fans, as it’s already a loud, intense genre; the adage “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” was probably said by a metalhead. However, the intensity should be heard at any volume in my opinion. Even it’s playing at 1, the vocals should come through, the bite of every snare, every cutting note in a riff should be crystal clear. Blasting it to 11, they make use of some good techniques. Some have been done to death, namely the gallops prominent in the title track “Destination Hell” and the sweeps in nearly every guitar solo on the album. They also make good use of variety, following up slow songs with faster ones, or following up a galloping melody with a march.

A notable standout is “Time”. The metronomic riff mimics a ticking clock in a genius way and the precision in the main riff is a subtle thematic nod. The vocals also come through and have some of the best quality here. However, I have to point out that in the upper register, it can sound like the vocalist has a cold, notably in the chorus of this song. That’s something that needs to be worked on. However, the guitar solo is excellent, especially with the unexpected change in tempo. The ambiance at the end, with an alarm going, was also a good touch. The album closes with what is supposed to be an 'American Pie' for metalheads: a clever tribute to the genre utilizing popular song titles like “Stairway To Heaven” or “Detroit Rock City”. As a song, it’s a fun tune and would be great to rock out to at a concert.

I’m of the mindset that even though it’s metal, listeners shouldn’t have to crank it to enjoy it or feel the intensity. I crank my music because the intensity inherent in the notes and melodies is interesting, and I love it, so I want to crank it, not because I have to in order to get enjoyment out of it. I get that it was probably engineered to play at full volume, but musical intensity shouldn’t just come from a knob on your speaker. If you play it at a lower volume than make-your-eardrums-bleed, it is underwhelming. This isn’t avant-garde experimental stuff you can listen to while you’re working. This is produced exclusively to be crank-it-up music. Blast it from your car speakers and make the neighbors complain about the noise decibel to get the full experience.

Songwriting: 7
Production: 6
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Hate
2. Destination Hell
3. Smoking Guns
4. Time
5. Voices From The Dark
6. The Eyes Of The Beast
7. Speed Ride
8. Bleeding Heart
9. Under Horizon
10. Masters Of Metal
Lineup:
Udo Bethke – Vocals
Wolfgang Tewes – Guitars
Michael Wiekenberg – Bass
Matthias Meßfeldt – Drums
Record Label: Pure Steel Records
     


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Edited 31 May 2020
 

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