Death Hawks

support Octophuzz
author BV date 23/01/14 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

We’re well in to 2014 on this cold, dark January night, yet somehow I haven’t managed to attend any gigs prior to this one. Eager to kick the season of gigs off, I went to catch up on yet another Finnish export that should, apparently, be quite the experience in the live setting. Not being one known for missing out on such opportunities when presented with them, I left my comfortable couch to launch a DJ set at Beta with my trusted colleague AP in anticipation of Death Hawks.

All photos by Peter Troest

Octophuzz

Octophuzz – well, that’s a name I hadn’t encountered before. Prior to tonight’s gig, I had made myself loosely acquainted with their stylistic direction and, as it would seem, they played a rowdy, party-making kind of groovy rock n’ roll with quite clear desert-stoner influences. As such, their set was extremely energetic all the way throughout their allotted 40 minutes but it was also one filled with a striking familiarity. As the band made their way through track after track of fuzzed up riffs that drowned out the, unfortunately, rather unimpressive vocal work the influences took a tighter and more powerful grasp of the songwriting – leaving me no choice but to arrive at the conclusion that Octophuzz sound strikingly similar to a well-crafted Queens of the Stone Age cover band.

With “Smile or Die” the band makes their highlight of the night with an infectious riff that deviates slightly from the QOTSA songwriting formula and as such, it also comes across as a bit more honest sounding, rather than coming across as a complete knock-off of Homme and the boys. In spite of my obvious issues with their far too clear inspirations, I must say that I did enjoy their energy and the vibrant enthusiasm coming from the band and I’m sure that they’ll eventually be a great live act. What I believe they so desperately need though, is a songwriting formula that deviates from what they are currently creating.

Death Hawks

Following a quick stop at the bar and a few tunes from the DJ-decks, it was time for Death Hawks to hit the stage. Introduced by eerie synth-work and an ominous presence, the foundation was laid for their eclectic blend of semi-occult themes and their incorporation of kraut and progressive elements into a retro-styled soundscape. From the get go, however, something unique sets them apart from most other kraut/psych/prog based bands I’ve seen recently – namely their activity on stage. When dealing with music so introvert as this, the musicians often have a tendency to be glaring off into space whilst playing their sweet drones. This however, was not the case with Death Hawks. As lead singer/guitarist Teemu Markkula played his eclectic guitar parts he was maniacally bouncing from one end of the stage to the other, all the while looking completely disinterested in standing still at any given point. Coupled with the occasionally danceable music, the foundation was set for the small, yet dedicated crowd at Beta to really get into the tunes – whether it was their slightly occult moments, their lengthy drones or the bombastic, slightly bluesy jam that evolved into a massive display of Markkula’s skills with a slide on the guitar.

The true strength of Death Hawks’ set however, was their final track before the encore, “Black Acid”, as this lengthy kraut-drone served up an array of opportunities for each band member to pitch in with a little sonic exploration – especially so, Tenho Mattila’s work on the eerie synth-parts as well as the low-key saxophone fills were especially haunting – leaving a long-lasting impression on this particular reviewer. It must be said though, that neither Mattila nor Markkula would have had the necessary support for their overwhelmingly excessive sonic explorations, had it not been for the rock-solid, yet unnervingly groovy foundation laid down by Riku Pirttiniemi (bass) and Miikka Heikkinen (drums). In conclusion, it should therefore be noted that Death Hawks is a well-oiled kraut-psych machinery which, if the world is indeed a fair place, will probably gain at least some recognition for their work in the near future. After all, when all is said and done, Finland’s musical exports continue to impress me – and Death Hawks are no exception whatsoever.

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