Voltagehawk comes screaming with electric thunder, a dirty rock adventure that brings crackling blues vibes to sci-fi soundscapes. This eclectic electric assortment of tunes is essentially a garage band, but don’t be fooled by such a simplistic term. Distorted guitars and ambient tones combine with punchy drums and driving bass to drive the listener into a rusty blade runner blues groove. Bringing the psychedelic absent from most cyberpunks and reveling in the risks rarely taken by other hard-rock bands, Voltagehawk’s electric thunder is a unique delight.
Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, the group is a self-proclaimed assortment of influences. In an interview with Eat Sleep Rock Nashville, Voltagehawk clearly explains their sense of identity, which was solidified, thanks in large part to producer Geoff Piller, on their self-titled debut album. Bassist Tyler Boone brings a groove from Mississippi, while drummer Jarrad James knows how to layer and peel onions. Guitarist Chase Arocha provides shreds suited to a variety of rock styles, from melodic to malevolent, while vocalist Dan Fenton has the full range of a rusty-throated crooner ready to growl, scream or sing along to the song. Wonderfully, Voltagehawk is an assortment of skilled musicians combining their varied tastes and talents into one tasty piece of audio.
There are obvious hard-rock elements perfect for anyone looking to pull off whiskey and headbang shots. Still, tracks like “Failed Reentry” and “Land of No One” take on a lighter sonic tone, preserving the edge of the lyrical content. Meanwhile, the tracks “Neon” and “The Cosmic Hangman” can only be described as Voltagehawk. These are songs made up of gritty vocals, expressive guitars and bluesy lyrics accented with ambient tones that elevate everything above mere garage rock.
Tracks stay fresh without turning into anything predictable. However, someone looking for a single tone may be reluctant to indulge in the full sonic epic. And make no mistake, there’s a narrative at the heart of Voltagehawk’s electric thunder. This sci-fi adventure, expressed through song, is interesting because a listener can walk in or out at any time and still find an enjoyable listen. It’s reminiscent of other concept stories, where the songs are solid on their own but make more sense collectively (e.g. Fear Factory’s Obsolete and Pink Floyd The wall).
Still, make no mistake, even when the instrumental edge shifts to a softer sound, that doesn’t mean the lyrics are any less sharp. On some songs, the lyrics become simplistic but sharp, slyly leaving plenty of room for a powerful instrumental presence. “False Kings” is a powerful example, blending manic punk and sludge, while follow-up track “The Engineer” goes in the opposite direction. “Circles” is another track inclined towards more poetic lyrics, though that doesn’t mean the music is lacking in any way. Nothing ever really takes up space electric thunder. On the contrary, different elements take center stage depending on a song.
This is particularly interesting because it shows how fast Voltagehawk is moving. This is essentially the band’s second album, but hints of their potential can be seen in earlier work. Songs from their debut album such as “Modern Gasoline” and “Show Me Some Love” carry promises that come true on electric thunder. That’s not to say they’re inferior to everything, but Voltagehawk proves on this record that they know how to enrich their sound, making it something that’s uniquely their own and stands out.
The fact is that there are elements of all types of music. Pop sensibilities mingle with punk fury alongside, dare I say, a hint of gospel, all tied together by a thread of heavy metal. The Shoegaze influences seem obvious, at least enough to tease fans of the subgenre for a taste. However, be warned. For those who enjoyed bands like Glycerin or Loathe but wanted those bands to do something more challenging, Voltagehawk offers hot sauce.
In any case, this kind of diverse and eclectic seasoning saves the ear from boredom. Unfortunately, not everyone is looking for a wild variation everywhere. The silver lining, however, is what makes the album enjoyable overall, leaving enough flavorful singles for one person to pick at their leisure. More metallic tastes might not be inclined towards tracks like “Land of No One”, but those tongues will certainly revel in “The Cosmic Hangman”, “Neon” and “Straight Razor”. Plus, the post-rock crowd would do well to sample “Circles” and “Ballad of a Starship.”
All in all, that’s what makes electric thunder commendable. Voltagehawk takes risks. On “Recrimination”, Dan Fenton shouts “get it where you can” before the band slams what can only be described as jazzy cowboy bebop. This flavor then continues at the start of “Neon” before the track takes on a flavor of its own, what I would call cyberpunk blues. It’s this mix that really makes the album a journey, with each track feeding into the next.
Their strength lies in dirty greasy rock, but instead of being confined to where they hover, they take risks. Some won’t land with all listeners, but that’s what’s interesting. On my first play, I didn’t care about every track, but on a second round, a lot of what I didn’t like started grooving. Expectations fell apart, allowing me to really listen. It is this risk of Icarus that makes this album worth the detour.
Voltagehawk offers a varied sound all its own. Even if someone decides to pick just a few pieces, they won’t go wrong grabbing some treats. There are many heavy firecrackers on electric thunder as well as smooth grooves. Proving that Nashville has more to offer than country, it will be interesting to see where this band goes from here. For now, fans of bands like Clutch, Loathe and Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell would do well to check out Voltagehawk.
Maybe it’s the listening you didn’t know you needed. Something fresh yet familiar to cleanse the palate and tempt you towards other delights. Available now on a variety of music services, open your ears and embrace the flames of modern essence, taste electric thunder courtesy of Voltagehawk.