Following on from their debut full length, Leeds' Chickenhawk release three track EP 'A. Or Not?'
EP opener 'I hate this, do you like it?' throws the listener in at the deep end, with a stormy introduction of chugging riffs gathering to a brief peak of rioting drums and shrapnel guitars, before the drums settle into a steady, background rumble, shot through with urgently squealing riffs. And that's all in the first thirty seconds.
Throughout the song - and, indeed, the EP - frontman Paul Astick's favoured vocal styles are a snot-nosed, punkish shout, and a twisted hardcore snarl. The majority of the time, the lyrics are indistinguishable. His voice is just another layer of noise in Chickenhawk's mad-eyed, experimental metal, instead of the main focus.
'I hate this, do you like it?' sweeps along on waves of dark, brooding riffs, with the occasional accessible moment offering some light relief, as Chickenhawk break off for choruses of stylishly swaggering guitars and foot-stamping drumbeats. Fortunately, Astick is always on hand to screech away and ensure 'I hate this, do you like it?' loses none of its confrontational aggression.
Both 'Son of Cern' and 'Nasa Vs. Esa' feature heavily-experimental introductions, before revving up into the main body of the song.
In the case of 'Son of Cern' this takes the form of juddering riffs and drums that lurch along painfully, before flying off on random tangents. Once 'Son of Cern' gets going in earnest, its helter-skelter riffs and galloping drums are Chickenhawk at their most punk. It isn't all good, fast fun though, as 'Son of Cern' quietens into a steadily bouncing, drum-led mid-section, scattered with bursts of spiky hardcore howls, drum rolls and crashing riffs. It's guaranteed to keep the listener on their toes.
Following the halfway point, Chickenhawk indulge in their penchant for chaos, unleashing a swaggering, riff-packed racket that hangs together on a tight, bass groove. From this barely contained chaos, rises dizzying riffs that'll churn the listener deeper into 'Son of Cern.' Another unexpected hook, comes in the form of some oddly tuneful, semi-sing vocals that briefly transform 'Son of Cern' into something you'll want to sing along to.
'Son of Cern' is an endlessly evolving metal behemoth that slips through your fingers every time you think you've got it pinned down. An experimental rock mind-boggler one minute, and a coherent, tuneful metal song awash with hooky riffs the next, 'Son of Cern' defies classification.
After a fittingly proggy intro of abrasive riffs sawing across fitful drum rolls, Chickenhawk launch into 'Nasa Vs. Esa,' arguably the EP's most conventional song. The first act of the 'Nasa Vs. Esa' saga is bursting with swaggering riffs, topped off with a liberal helping of drum rolls and vocals where you can almost decipher what Astick is so damn annoyed about. As the song progresses, those churning riffs once again make their presence felt, as 'Nasa Vs. Esa' does its best to suck you in. So far, so conventional(ish), until Chickenhawk plunge headfirst into a full-on, constantly evolving prog/metal mid-section that covers more musical terrain in the space of one minute, than most bands do during their whole careers.
After sixty seconds of refusing to be defined, 'Nasa Vs. Esa' reigns it in for a pummelling and focused end-section where every bile-drenched vocal is driven home by a thunderous drumbeat, bringing the EP to a brutal conclusion.
'A. Or Not?' is three tracks of furious heavy metal with avant-garde leanings that always feel like a legitimate part of the songs, and not trying-too-hard added extras. If you usually like your metal to be strictly old school without any hint of experimentation, then Chickenhawk might just be the band to change your mind. Avant-garde metal for the masses.