Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Hawkwind—
Warrior On The Edge Of Time


Released 1975 on United Artists
The Seth Man, July 2000ce
This album was Hawkwind’s most polished at the time, and one that would signal the abrupt end of the group’s tenure on UA, which was a pity. But this sixth and final album (discounting the contract-fulfilling, cross-faded “Roadhawks” compilation) was where Hawkwind’s initial burst of space-metal punk blur-outs joined at the hips with druggie busking would be in full force for the final time as pan-galactic mystery tunes are interspersed between nocturnal instrumental bridges. Lead guitarist Dave Brock was on a total songwriting high as “Warrior” held three of his stupendous psychedelic traumas in the shape of both sides’ respective openers: “Assault And Battery”/“Golden Void” on side one and “Magnu” on side two.

Hawkwind’s personnel lineup had always differed wildly from album to album, and “Warrior On The Edge Of Time” was no exception. ‘Speculative fiction’ author Michael Moorcock was brought in to fulfill a less-crazier Robert Calvert spoken word role, and was an excellent choice as it was he who previously collaborated with the band with his written piece “Sonic Attack.” A second drummer, ex-Chicken Shack skinsman Alan Powell was added on drums alongside Simon King, while keyboardist Simon House had already been integrating more keyboards (and occasional treated violin runs) than ever before into Hawkwind for the past year, evolving their sound into one verging on precision. And an equally precise Lemmy Thunderbird bass line opens “Assault And Battery” over mellotron washes followed up by the double drumming kick in and the ever-changeless, over amplified Dave Brock power strum as his vocals proceed to rip off Longfellow with the nonetheless great line “Lives of great men are reminders/We may make our lives sublime…” over Nik Turner’s weaving flute melodies. But the whole thing is a gigantic WALL of sound that pushes further and further on into time, only breaking for the chorus where it remain a wall, but only a slightly higher one for Brock’s just lurched into another chord. It runs immediately into the Bardo-weaving “The Golden Void” as the mellotron curtain is parted with what initially sounds for all the world a piercing mid-seventies Moog oscillation when in fact it is Simon House’s screeching violin through multiple phase and delay units. The churning musical mess has still lingered from “Assault And Battery” but slowed down into a trudging out-of-bodiness as Brock intones a reappearing “corridor of flame” as all backing instrumentation melts into the background with super-slowed tempo that is steady and altogether tripped out. Then the great build towards the finish with even more unleashed Brock power-strums through the biggest psychedelic amp he still owned and Nik Turner enters the fray in the coda with a “feel” solo on sax that absolutely surpasses his own complete lack of expertise with a beautifully-parped passage evocative of the journey to come: which does soon enough with the first of three spoken links.

“The Wizard Blew His Horn” is all echoed vocals with synthesizer and drums resigned to essentially what amounts to haunted house effects in the background. The phased and bashed cymbals carry over his cries for “a champion… CHAMPION… CHAMPION…” crossfading just before Hammer Horror time into “Opa Loka” -- an instrumental whose title is taken, perplexingly enough, from a town in Florida (albeit misspelled) and not some mythical planet that ties in with the vague Moorcock conceptual story line. But something else it most definitely is, is a totally NEU!-driven instrumental with linear pacing and a feel like a more spaced-out and organic relation of “E-Musik.” And it continues with all the directness of NEU! as a veritable gallery of synthesizer soundscapes pass overhead. “The Demented Man” ends side one, a lugubrious Brock acoustic and drum-less ballad as seagulls wheel and cry and mellotrons reinforce the whole “We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago” 12-string styled rumination.

Brock’s other side is reflected in side two’s kick off, “Magnu.” Rain and wind beat against the Hawklords as that Brock riff from not only side one but EVERY previous Hawkwind album continues on over a lesser-NEU! groove that opens up a path for synthesizer and then violin outlays with a loosely squonked sax rhythm. But the tracks begins to spiral slowly out of control and into a tornado funnel as the brutal repetition trance out of the groove continues for so long that the vocals begin to draw into a black hole of backwards echo, turning the chorus into a into a mesmerising trance that gently begins to bend pitch, speed and shape the further the track proceeds forward. The chorus is great: although it’s completely indecipherable even before its metamorphosis into the phased, phased guitar overdubs and unrelenting skittering, echoed violin vamping through far too many effects extends into the next dimension. The crossfading continues into the Nik Turner echoed-vox a lot intonation of “Standing At The Edge,” which goes into the Simon House instrumental “Spiral Galaxy 28948” (the numeral date being House’s birthday) like a Moog passage meeting the Allman Brothers in a cosmic roller-rink. This then blurs out to “Warriors,” the last spoken piece heavy on dramatic tympani and distorted vocals pronouncements from Moorcock. “Dying Seas” is an equilibrium-threatening track that opens with Lemmy’s solo sludge-funking bass that pound through Nik Turner’s phased, echoed vocals as the two drummers crash out a beat too simple for one drummer, but it only adds to the disorientation of it all. And Turner proceeds to throw another free-sax freak out at the fade. “Kings Of Speed” hurries up the end of the album with opening bass/drums/guitar walloping and a totally uncalled for synthesizer WHOOOOOOSH that signals a return to their previous quick-paced songs, this time with near-Johnny Thundering plectrum exercises and Simon House hoedowning for all it’s worth in the middle bridge. Brock’s vocals return, now echoing backwards. It’s a mindless street anthem/football chant mess and an all-too-well-earned self-coronation of amphetamine abuse.

Sadly, this selfsame substance would lead to a Canadian bust that saw Lemmy sacked and Hawkwind immediately reduced to sub-cosmic debris. Try as one may, the following two albums for Charisma -- even with the inclusion of Paul Rudolph on able-bodied bass -- pale greatly besides their six years of recording for United Artists. But beyond this?

Four words: ‘Proceed with extreme caution.’