Voltagehawk comes in screaming with Electric Thunder, a dirty grease rock adventure that brings a crackling blues vibe to sci-fi soundscapes. This eclectic electric assortment of tracks is essentially a garage band but don’t be fooled by such a simplistic term. Distorted guitars and ambient tones combine with hard hitting drums and driving bass to conduct a listener into a rusty groove of blade runner blues. Bringing the psychedelic missing from most cyberpunk and reveling in risks rarely taken by other hard-rock acts, Voltagehawk’s Electric Thunder is a unique delight.
Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, the band is a self-described assortment of influences. In an interview with Eat Sleep Rock Nashville, Voltagehawk makes plain their sense of identity, which solidified, thanks in no small part to producer Geoff Piller, on their self-titled first album. Bassist Tyler Boone brings a Mississippi groove, while drummer Jarrad James knows how to layer and skin the onions. Guitarist Chase Arocha supplies shreds suitable for a variety of rock stylings, from the melodic to malicious, while vocalist Dan Fenton owns the full range of a rust-throated crooner ready to growl, scream, or sing as the song requires. Wonderfully, Voltagehawk is an assortment of skilled musicians combining their varied tastes and talents into a savory audio scrapple.
There are obvious hard-rock elements perfect for anyone looking to fire shots of whiskey and headbang. Yet, tunes like “Failed Reentry” and “Land of No One” take a lighter sonic tone, saving the cutting edge for lyrical content. Meanwhile, the tracks “Neon” and “The Cosmic Hangman” can only be described as Voltagehawk. These are songs composed of gravelly vocals, expressive guitars, and bluesy lyrics accented by ambient tones elevating everything above simple garage rock.
Tracks stay fresh without turning into anything predictable. However, someone looking for a single tone may be averse to indulging the entire sonic epic. And make no mistake, there’s a narrative at the heart of Voltagehawk’s Electric Thunder. That sci-fi adventure, expressed through song, is interesting since a listener can jump in or out at any point and still find a listen enjoyable. It harkens to other concept stories, where songs are solid on their own but have more meaning collectively (e.g. Fear Factory’s Obsolete and Pink Floyd’s The Wall).
Still, make no mistake, even when the instrumental edge shifts to sounding softer, that doesn’t mean the lyrical is any less razor. On some songs lyrics land simplistic but pointed, slyly leaving plenty of space for a powerful instrumental presence. “False Kings” is a potent example, mixing manic punk and sludge, while the next track “The Engineer” goes in the opposite direction. “Circles” is another tune inclined to more poetic lyrics, though that doesn’t mean the music is in any way lacking. Nothing ever really takes a backseat on Electric Thunder. Rather, different elements take center stage depending on a song.
It’s especially interesting since it shows how quickly Voltagehawk is evolving. This is essentially the band’s second album, but hints of their potential can be seen in earlier work. Songs off their first album such as “Modern Gasoline” and “Show Me Some Love” carry promise which is fulfilled on Electric Thunder. That’s not to say they’re lesser than anything, but Voltagehawk proves on this record they know how to enrich their sound, making it something all their own that stands out.
The point being there’s elements of all types of music. Pop sensibilities mingle with punk fury alongside, I dare say, a soupçon of gospel, all tied together with a heavy metal thread. Shoegaze influences seem apparent, at least enough to tease fans of the subgenre in for a taste. However, be warned. For those who’ve enjoyed bands like Glycerin or Loathe but wanted those acts to do something harder, Voltagehawk is offering hot sauce.
In any case, that kind of diverse, eclectic seasoning spares the ear from boredom. Unfortunately, not everyone is looking for wild variation throughout. The plus side, though, is what makes the album enjoyable as a whole leaves enough savory singles for a person to pluck at their leisure. More metal tastes may not be inclined to tracks like “Land of No One” but those tongues will certainly delight in “The Cosmic Hangman”, “Neon”, and “Straight Razor”. Furthermore, the post-rock crowd would do well sampling “Circles” and “Ballad of a Starship”.
All in all, that’s what makes Electric Thunder commendable. Voltagehawk takes risks. On “Recrimination” Dan Fenton screams “get it where you can” before the band slams down what can only be described as jazzy cowboy bebop. That flavor then carries over in the start to “Neon” before the track takes on a tang all its own, what I’d call cyberpunk blues. It’s this blend that really makes the album a journey with each tune feeding the next.
Their strength is in dirty grease rock, but instead of being confined where they soar, they take chances. Some won’t land with every listener, yet that’s the interesting thing. My first playthrough I didn’t care for every track, but on a second spin, a lot of what I didn’t enjoy began to groove. Expectation got out of the way allowing me to really listen. It’s that Icarus risk which makes this album worth checking out.
Voltagehawk delivers a varied sound that’s all their own. Even if someone decides to just cherry-pick a few tracks, they won’t go wrong grabbing certain sweet treats. There’re plenty of heavy bangers on Electric Thunder as well as smooth grooves. Proving Nashville has more to offer than country, it’ll 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 checking out Voltagehawk.
This may be the listen you didn’t know you need. Something fresh yet familiar to cleanse the palate and tempt you towards other delights. Available now across a variety of music services, open an ear, and embracing flames of modern gasoline, get a taste of Electric Thunder courtesy of Voltagehawk.