'You can't do swing at 250 BPM. We want our songs to swing a little bit," says guitarist Andrew Packer of hard rock/metal act Gypsyhawk. "I don't see what's wrong with that."
The Pasadena, Calif., quartet formed four years ago, looking to break from their dark metal pasts — most notably singer/bassist Eric Harris' five-year stint in Athens, Ohio cult faves Skeletonwitch. After a false start with 2010's prog-oriented debut Patience and Perseverance, they've found their groove on its classic rock-inflected Metal Blade follow-up, Revelry & Resilience.
They still love metal, but were bored by its current direction and trajectory. So the band turned its back on the prevailing "(speed x power) ÷ breakdowns" formula toward a greasy old-school hard rock that splits the difference between Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy with a hint of King Crimson and a dollop of metal thunder.
"When we started this thing, it was a reaction to what we had all been doing individually, which was more serious and darker. Almost self-righteous," Packer says. "We wanted music to fit a party. [KISS'] 'Detroit Rock City,' not [Slayer's] 'South of Heaven.'"
Revelry & Resilience represents a fresh start for Harris and co-founding guitarist Packer. Original drummer Joe Fabio and second guitarist Scotty Conant have left, replaced by Ian Brown and Erik Kluiber, respectively. The new lineup dovetails with a new approach — more songs, more concisely performed.
"I don't think there were more than two songs less than six minutes on the first record," says Packer. "There was one song 'For Those Who Love the Lizz,' which is an absolute Thin Lizzy ripoff that goes on way too long. Everyone would be like, 'It's really catchy, we like it.' Then by minute five they're checking their watch."
There's a sweet sativa strain to tracks like "Frostwyrm," whose fantastical lyrics are yoked to a winding but not quite woolly stoner-rock arrangement. Others have a taste of the epic, like "1345," whose graceful art-rock opening quickly drops the pretense and strips down to its skivvies, as Harris declares the party's on over crackling Southern-fried boogie.
It's an effective strategy that at its best melds hip-thrusting '70s hard-rock swagger with the chunky rumble and highwire solos of metal. Nowhere is this better exemplified than on the lead single "Hedgeking," which has the greasy mid-tempo party vibe of Skynyrd after snorting a line of Metallica. It thumps hard, but doesn't lose the melody or sway in breakneck pyrotechnics.
That, to hear Packer tell it, is one of the biggest problems with metal today.
"There's speed, breakdowns and sweet-picking, but there's no soul. It's so copycat," he says. "I feel it is building and building up and will soon just topple over on itself, and there's going to be rock 'n roll that's left."
Nor can he see the point in chasing a style established ages ago by bands that are still around. After all, where's the creativity in that?
"The majority of the spotlight's held by bands that had it 30 to 40 years ago, not doing it as well as they used to. But I guess people like familiarity," he says. "It seems kinda weird that the dinosaurs are still the ones doing it. There's got to be new music, right?"