Sunday, June 24, 2012

Such Hawks Such Hounds (2008)

Actually I've watched this documentary ages ago (last year, even!), but I've never really thought about it until recently, when I've revisit the journey into the sound called Stoner Rock/Metal.

So I've rewatched it just now, and I'd like to put down some short thoughts on what I think about this documentary:

The download links are all pretty much gone now, so I settled with the Youtube one instead

To be honest I've never really gotten that much into the sub-genre, so watching this is really more of finding out about the bands who were influential in bringing about the development of what is to be called Stoner Rock (an unfortunate monicker, as the documentary would tell you).

The documentaries open up with a few people discussing on heavy music, and as you can see, the definition varies:

“You could have an acoustic guitar and one vocal, and it could be the heaviest thing in the world” – Scott Reeder

"Heavy is about... being pissed off and being a warlord and laying down, like... just like, someone like, that was in a battle... if they had an axe, and just chop somebody in the head... it landed. And you have a riff that plays the same way that way... that's heavy" - Matt Pike

"There's things that you could do with clean reverb tone that are so... that are so evil and dark. It makes Black Sabbath sound like... you know, Peggy Lee" - Mario Lalli

"When somebody really has something to say, and I'm not saying verbally necessarily, but emotionally, it comes out in the music and it hits you. That's heavy music to me. It doesn't necassarily have to be all about loud guitars... even though I love loud guitars" - Jack Endino

From there, the documentary went on to chronicle the development of the hard rock American underground music, covering roughly from the period of 70s, 80s, and 90s. The lack of bands that emerge from the 2000s would have suggested that the music didn't really have its visionary during the start of the Millennium... or at least that is the impression that I'm getting.

The documentary mentioned a lot of bands - Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Earthless, Pentagram, Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Across The River, Kyuss, Sleep, Dead Meadow etc... However, perhaps because of cramming all the bands into the documentary, a lot of the bands here were mentioned or featured only as a passing - and even when a band was featured chiefly, the topic was usually of how the band got together and the motive behind their inception. I wished they'd have enlarged the scope a bit for some of the bands - a few of the bands didn't really leave that much of impression for me.
Perhaps my favorite out of the lists

After watching it I could say that those bands have their own visions which they are perpetuating through their sounds. And not all these visions get through to the listeners - I remembered watching the documentary for the first time and thinking how some of the bands are pretty much abstract and self-indulgent. But I wasn't really into the kind of sound then; after rewatching this with a different perspective, I like how they're trying to put their personal views and thoughts (even though they might not appeal or make sense to some... or much of the masses, even) into their work, instead of putting off some cliched topics you hear playing in the radio now. They're pretty honest, you could say so.

And by going against the masses, they're not really much of 'hipster' - they're not really going for what is 'cool' and 'hip'. Admittedly, Stoner Rock is not everyone's cup of tea - heck, I find it hard to imagine that kind of music being played out in the open for the mainstream crowds and such! So it's pretty humbling when, near the end, we see how most of the bands still have to make ends meet by doing day jobs, outside of their gigs. Even for the more bigger names (High On Fire is the one I'd immediately point out), you could see that they're not 'rock stars' in the conventional sense.

And perhaps that's how they have been 'keeping it real', to borrow that phrase. And for some, perhaps that is exactly what they wanted, and that it's not a bad thing at all. As Matt Pike (ex-Sleep, now High On Fire) put it:

"Money’s paper. I wipe my ass with paper, you know. It’s not… it’s not that essential for my soul, you know. Can’t take it with you if I die tomorrow, big deal. I’ll have a lot of money that I didn’t spend."

The best quote for me off the documentary would be from Al Cisneros (ex-Sleep, now Om), which although it applies pretty much for art, I find it very relevant to pretty much a lot of things:

"You have to do it. There's no choice, whether people hate it or people love it. It doesn't make a difference.  You're doing it because you have to. Because it makes sense of your reality. Makes sense of your daily life. Makes sense of the world around you" 

Yes, I have a bias for Sleep

In the end, I'd say this documentary would appeal only to certain viewers - it doesn't really cover the scene in a global scale as... say, what Metal: A Headbanger's Journey did. Perhaps people who were more or less influenced by sounds that came out from the development of these underground hard rock American bands would find much more appeal in the documentary than other casual watchers.

As for me, being someone who has some interest into a much more slower, psychedelic, stone-y side of hard rock and metal, I find the documentary pretty insightful for someone who is not even aware of the role played by some of the bands in creating the whole Stoner Rock sound. If anything, some of the quotes are pretty memorable and funny.

And yeah, Wino is one funny guy.


  1. Been an ardent lover of stoner rawk for years. Can't believe I didn't read this post sooner. I need to view this documentary. I've seen parts of it.

    Matt always seems like such a nice guy. And Cisneros is just friggin' insane. Probably my favorite bassist.

    Which reminds me, is the new Om record out yet? I've gotta check it out.

    1. I actually forgot how I stumbled into the documentary in the first place. I think it was after seeing that one section with the Sleep part.

      I think the new record is coming out soon... either this month of August, can't remember (haven't checked it out too)