When it comes to riffs, power trio Aawks really don’t mess about. A cut above your average stoner rock band, their debut album ‘(Heavy On The Cosmic)’ did exactly what it said on the tin. Its eight tracks fused Sabbath, Kyuss and classic Monster Magnet riffs with a whole world of phased effects – applied to both the guitars and vocals – to leave the listener with the ultimate in fuzzy, buzzy, mind-bending wonderment. On tunes like ‘The Woods’ which combined driving stoner riffs with slower breakdowns and heavily treated lead guitars, and ‘All Is Fine’ which latched onto a rhythm that sounded like a distant cousin of ‘Silver Machine’, it was even possible to hear a huge influence from early Hawkwind bleeding through the slightly echoey vocals and head nodding riffs. With a touch of doom fleshing out ‘Peeling Away’, it was clear that these guys could do incredible heaviness too. Since almost every moment brought something exciting to Aawks’ chosen style, ‘(Heavy On The Cosmic)’ was potentially one of the finest heavy psych discs since Monster Magnet foisted ‘Dopes To Infinity’ upon an unsuspecting world in the mid 90s.
2023 didn’t bring the full length follow up from Aawks that the psychedelic universe deserved, but this EP, delivered at the eleventh hour, provides an interesting companion piece to the debut. For those who loved the album, its four tracks will certainly mark a welcome addition to the catalogue, and for those who missed Aawks the first time around, the material – including two well chosen cover tunes – should provide a well balanced introduction.
Regarding those covers: one comes from a very predictable source; the other, not so much. Together, they show off the broad range of influences that go into the band’s melting pot of noise, and when heard as part of this EP, they feel strangely complimentary. A take on Pink Floyd’s ‘Julia Dream’ feels a little more spaced out than the original due to heavy usage of the ‘Planet Caravan’ vocal filter throughout – an addition that works, but makes the choruses feel as if they’re underwater – but is otherwise very respectful. Layers of folky guitar work cling onto a fragile melody, occasional keys invoke the older sounds of Rick Wright’s Farfisa organ well enough, and the hippie, late 60s vibes really add something to the Aawks sound. Those hoping this will take an interesting turn beyond the vocal tinkering will eventually get their wish when a couple of strange and spacy noises hovering in the back finally become more dominant during the coda, so this offers the best of all worlds for any potential listeners. A cover of A Flock of Seagulls ‘I Ran’, meanwhile, dares to be very different. Gone are the new wave sounds and bright sounding keys, and in their place, a wall of fuzz. Wheeling out some of the great, overdriven guitar tones that dominated their debut, Aawks attack the verse’s riff and tempo as if it were a deep cut from the Monster Magnet back-cat, whilst adding a couple of echoing lead noises and an other-worldly space rock vocal. Unexpectedly, it works. As does slowing the chorus for a classic doom riff, and adding bursts of noisy blues guitar, and using those lead tones as musical interjections between the vocal. Eventually arriving at a slow, stoner riff of Aawks’ own creation overlaid with shrill lead work, the recording surrenders to a riff that could’ve been created from any point in the band’s past. Stretched to a full six minutes, an old pop hit ultimately becomes a powerhouse of noise that stands up against any of Aawks’ original material.
The self-penned ‘The Figure’, meanwhile, works a hefty bass sound to create a superb intro, and to underscore an obviously Sabbath-esque swagger. The bluesy groove combined with the distortion immediately makes the riff sound like a massive tribute to the Sabs’ ‘Volume 4’ via the hands of Electric Wizard, such is the sheer weight of sound. As the riffs pass, the distorted edges lend the feeling of broken speakers, and this also adds something great to a hugely familiar sound. The psych-y vocal brings a stronger melody, and although you’d think the spacey effect could be in danger of being overused, it still manages to convey the trippy coolness of the very best space rock.
With the funky bass returning later, and a hugely aggressive lead guitar break thrown into the bargain, this is the kind of track that would work well for first time listeners. Granted, it’s a little heavier than the more Hawkwind-esque moments of the debut, but overall, it shows off most of their strongest musical traits in a flab free five minutes.
With a great live version of ‘All Is Fine’ – complete with sludgy intro, sounding as if it were played to an audience of nine – rounding out the release, ‘Luna’ is a superb EP. Yes, the mixture of sources suggests it’s little more than a selection of leftovers from their cosmic world of riffs, but this small package is actually a massive treat. With an equal balance of heaviness and trippiness, familiarity and oppressive darkness, it’s a brilliant primer, deserving of more than it’s stop-gap status. Grab a copy as soon as possible; if you love stoner metal and deep, riff heavy space rock, you won’t go far wrong.