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Reviews / Review: Spoothawk – addictive listening

IT’S BEEN under two years since vintage rockers and local SIBC favourites Spoothawk transformed from a Soundcloud demo project to a full band, and their progress in this fairly small amount of time has been impressive, culminating in a fully realised, professional 11-track release A Good Haul.

The group had its beginnings in the summer of 2013, and picked up a number of gigs, building up a following around Shetland for absorbing gigs playing their own classic hard rock in the vein of AC/DC and Aerosmith, with a self-aware macho cheesiness pulsing in their music through song titles like Hot Love (Straight After Midnight) and customary swaggering riffs and breakneck solos from two of Shetland’s guitar heroes, Ewan Nowak and Arthur Nicholson.

The other members all left the isles at the end of last summer to put the band on something of a hiatus, but not before some recording sessions in Mareel, followed by painstaking editing by Nowak.

Spoothawk performing live at Mareel. Photo: Chloe Tallack

Continuing this perfectionist streak, the album was mastered on the other side of the Atlantic, in Toronto, as part of the band’s dedication to getting exactly the right sound. Andy Krehm was the Canada-based engineer of the record with an extensive and diverse back catalogue of work.

That other three fifths of the band comprises the ever-versatile vocalist Joe Watt, drummer Lewis Murray and the jazzy solid six-string bassist Rodrigo Ferrari-Nunes, all on top form.

It’s easy to tell how much fun they’re having, whether it be the fluid little bass runs that pop up here and there, Murray’s boundless energy behind the kit or Watt’s frontman swagger and vocals that fit the band’s sound superbly.

Adrenaline-heavy anthems like the aforementioned opener Hot Love and Hauling Me are addictive listening. There are plenty of hard riffs – it’s what this genre is built on after all – but at the heart of so many of the songs there is a catchy chorus to remind you that this music is rooted in pop, Tennent’s-soaked pop at that.

This is not to discount the darker touches that appear throughout – Nowak, the band’s original mastermind who played a big part in the album’s songwriting and post-production, is a man heavily influenced by metal. On tracks like Lay Down and Innocence this becomes clear through the sprawling, squirming guitar runs (Guthrie Govan style) and that old faithful tritone, or devil’s interval, confirming this hawk as a true predator.

Not to mention the possibly ironically named hidden track featuring fiddle and haunting acoustic guitars in an unexpected 10-minute ode to prog-metal in a way the other more accessible songs only very subtly hint at.

Nothing here screams originality, but it in no way needs to. Shetland has a vast legion of classic rock fans young and old, and so A Good Haul should be an instant success, hopefully to be followed by gigs in the summer.

It’s a safe bet that quite a few Shetlanders will be heading to AC/DC’s Hampden Park concert in June, and this album might be just the thing to keep them occupied in the meantime, as well as everyone else who wants to hear the next big Shetland band’s release for that matter.

Spoothawk’s debut album, A Good Haul, is now on sale at Mareel, High Level Music, and some country stores. It will be released on iTunes on 1 May.

Patrick Mainland