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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 20 June 2009
"The Chronicle of the Black Sword" may not be in the bucket of "Hawkwind's Best Albums" but it is, nevertheless, a good Hawkwind album featuring all of their trademarks and it is a pleasure to see it released on CD once again: it gives people like me who missed the CD the first time around the opportunity to add it to our collections once again. Like other releases in this excellent Atomhenge series, the CD sound is crisp and clear and the CD booklet is excellent, with an article by Mark Powell featuring lots of photographs and art-work from the period.

The line-up for the album was Brock, Harvey Bainbridge (on synths and keys), Huw Lloyd-Langton (guitar), Alan Davey (bass), Danny Thompson (drums) and Dave Charles (percussion).

This 1985 album focuses on the stories behind Michael Moorcock's "Elric" books, which many of us will have read in our teens. Moorcock and other science fiction imagery have been associated closely with Hawkwind since their early years: their famous album "Warrior on the Edge of Time" being a good example. It's a good marriage, both musically and artistically. "The Chronicle of the Black Sword" perhaps fails to live up to the magic of "Warrior on the Edge of Time" but is not a bad album by any means. Effectively mixing up sung and instrumental tracks throughout, the pick of the bunch are "Needle Gun" - a pacey rhythmic offering in the best Hawkwind tradition - and the ethereal "Zarozinia".

The bonus material, starting with Arioch (a B-side), is good too - in particular the four-track "Earth Ritual Preview" EP (1984) which is included in its entirety is well worth its presence on this disc.

CONCLUSION - A very good and worthy CD, even if not Hawkind's best.
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on 3 July 2009
I was really disappointed by this album when it came out, and cringed through most of the gig on the Black Sword tour (de Montfort Hall '85).

I think they tried a bit too hard personally. I love the Elric books and other Moorcock eternal champion books, and they really didn't do the work justice on this album. Instead of the sci-fi menace of "Choose Your Masques" it comes over more as 6th Form Am-Dram, especially when played live. BoC did *much* better with their "Black Sword" track, the Hawks don't come close to that level on this album for me.

On the positive side, the remastered sound is superb, much better than I remember it from vinyl (I sold my copy 20 years back along with Xenon Codex. I only hung on to my Needle Gun/Arioch 12" Single.)

The addition of the Needle Gun b-Side "Arioch" and the "Earth Ritual EP" is what convinced me to buy it again. I like "Night Of The Hawks" and this is probably the only way it'll be on CD.

The fact that it's an Atomhenge release helps too: I'm seriously impressed with their work to date, and look forward eagerly to Church of Hawkwind, Choose Your Masques and Sonic Attack being released soon.
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on 8 March 2015
Oh my goodness - I still love it. (A re-buy to replace long-gone vinyl.)

I saw someone say Choose your Masques was the last essential album. Chronicle came after and I say this is an essential album, from any perspective. An essential rock enthusiast album, never mind just an essential HW album.

There's just so many aspects about this CD that are right. The concept. The guitars. The tracks. Track nine, 'Sleep of a Thousand Years'. Excellent and may be the pinnacle of the album. Those guitars in the second half of it rock. A good place to peak, especially considering the finale, Horn of Destiny.

The whole album is great. Track three, Sea King is a little dreary, but forgivable, and it does give the rest of the album a platform.
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VINE VOICEon 24 July 2009
Being a fan of Hawkwind has similarities with being a fan of Doctor Who; we all have a favourite Doctor (Troughton thanks for asking) and we all have a line-up (or two) as our favourite set of Hawks. For me, this matches that mid-80s period where I get into Hawkwind first from a few gigs then this album mixing in as it does the Elric stories of Michael Moorcock.

Musically I would argue this has a lot to recommend it, Huw still back and penning a lot of the material; Alan new on bass contributing well; Harvey moved to keyboard doing his best Jean Michel Jarre; and, of course the captain.

To my ear, other influences include ZZ Top (mostly on Needlegun) and although preposterous in places I think some of the material is excellent - Zarozinia, Song of the Swords, Shade Gate and the climactic Horn of Destiny. Live it got better with Moonglum and Dragon and Fable of which I version is included in the decent extras including another personal favourite - Night of the Hawks.

Yes I'm biased, but if you can spot any of yourself in the above, give this excellent Atomhenge release a try!
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on 16 April 2010
The last studio album in Hawkwind's weakest period. I've seen it described as their heavy metal period. Not entirely sure about that but it does illustrate a fundamental weakness of that time. The band really do not have the poetical imagination to pull off a worthy interpretation of Moorcock's Elric stories. Not that the album is without merit. And considering they are my favourite band I'm always going to give it every chance. The lyrical weakness it well illustrated on the early songs and the music is nothing to write home about. At least the synth pieces provide some relief. At track six we get a real nadir with Needle Gun. It's a time when we should be well past boogie numbers like this. Luckily it was the last time.

Then things get better. Zarozina is an excellant keyboard led piece and Sleep of a Thousands Tears and Horn of Fate are far superior to the other heavy rock tracks on the album. The two short synth pieces are rtaher pointless though. A very patchy album with five tracks worth having and certainly amongst their worst efforts

After that we get b side Arioch, a very forgettable instrumental. The other additional tracks from the Earth Ritual EP completely outshine the original album and are probably some of the best things Hawkwind did in this period and certainly make the album a much more worthwhile purchase.
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on 13 March 2013
This is a great album from 1985 and this CD version here is the Flicknife one with the original 'Needle Gun' and 'Zarazonia' single B-sides as bonus tracks. Obviously Hawkwind were restricted by LP length [much shorter than today's CD running times] so great songs like 'Moonglum' and 'Dreaming City' don't appear here but as I review on actual content rather than wanted content I cannot take a star off. This is a concept album about Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone (though 'Needle Gun' does seem to reference the Jerry Cornelius novels) and as such the songs are pretty structured and lyrically sharp. Furthermore this is one of the best ever Hawkwind lineups with twin guitar attack featuring the late great Huw Lloyd-Langton at the height of his powers. 'Song of the Swords' gets proceedings off to a cracking start and the rest maintain that high standard. 'Chronicle of the Black Sword' stands up to repeated playing rather than 'let's give it a spin and see where they're at now' mindset engendered by the last 3 Hawkwind studio albums...
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 August 2009
The early 80's for hawkwind were a trying time apart from the outstanding ' Levitation' the other studio albums were patchy,all worth buying of course!! but the glory days of the 70's seemed a distant memory.Typically hawkwind bounced back and tried the near impossible task of applying michael moorcocks work to music and thus born was this disc.Opening track song of the swords is an excellent opener but it could easily have been off 'sonic attack' or 'choose your masques',best track is certainly needle gun, as for the rest of the original album it a mixture of prog/instrumentals and rock,nothing earth shattering just competently played music( and remember half decent 'wind is far better than most).Like most atomhenge releases this comes with extras and damn fine they are, the b'side arioch is a decent track and worthy of it place but the last 4 tracks are long overdue and very welcome ,originally the earth ritual ep they contain i believe two underated tracks namely green finned demon & dragons and fables,so hats of again to atomhenge on a worthy release and a great reissue campaign in general
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on 1 April 2013
i have always loved this album. i can remember doing mushrooms when i was a teenager and demanding we listen to Zarozinia over and over for about 4 hrs, then fouling myself but not going to get cleaned up until i had finished the album.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 February 2014
I caught Hawkwind live on two consecutive nights on the 'Black Sword' tour in 1985 (Bristol and Cardiff) and witnessed a different version of the 'Elric set' at the World Science Fiction Convention in Brighton in 1987. I'd seen Hawkwind twice before this, both times with Nik Turner, initially on the Earth Ritual Preview Tour (late 83 I think) and again on the tour that followed (late 84). So the material this Atomhenge edition covers ('The Chronicle of the Black Sword'/'Earth Ritual Preview E.P.') I saw performed live during those years. The Bristol Hippodrome gig was the only concert I've ever been to where people were headbanging in the boxes (very 'Phantom of the Opera', right?), while I spent the Brighton Worldcon set sat next to a female Anne McCaffrey fan from New Zealand, who was wearing a bergundy cloak (as you'd expect of a McCaffrey fan - cloak, female...sorry, but being a bookseller, I can tell you that sometimes the popular vision of 'fanboys'/'fangirls' is sadly correct). I was wearing my Sonic Assassins t-shirt, had black hair down to my nipples and was in white drainpipes and had bumped into Dave Brock in a hotel corridor scant hours before 'Alright mate' he'd said, smiling, clearly spotting a Hawknaut. 'Alright Dave,' was my eloquent reply. Well, I had just met Michael Moorcock and Linda Steele (MM's wife, who the lyrics of 'Choose Your Masks' and 'Arrival In Utopia' were originally credited too, presumably for tax reasons). I think I was more impressed by Linda, as she'd been Harlan Ellison's p.a..

As fun as the 'Black Sword' gigs were, they were a little Spinal Tap, as some of the naysayers here have said. Hawkwind were getting a bit too metal by this point. I'd loved them with Turner and Dead Fred on the 'Earth Ritual' tour - I thought Fred was Simon House (I was newish to the band then) and Nik was brilliant. The liner notes of this Atomhenge remaster of 'Chronicle' claim that fans and the music press (who cares about them, right?) weren't happy with his antics, but as far as I can see, it was probably Alan Davey who instigated the anti-Nik feelings. He was, after all, the new boy with the lemmy fixation ('Who is this dwarfish Kilminsterite' I thought when I first saw him on the last tour with Nik before the 'Elric' tour, '...and why is he so metal? Hawkwind are psychedelic spacerock, man!').

So for the record, for me, Nik's departure in '85 was the end of the band as a true creative force. 'Levitation' had been great because it had featured world class musos Ginger Baker and Tim Blake - and Huwie Bach was on form too, but 'Sonic Attack' had mostly been dull synth-metal. "Choose Your Masques" was much better due to there being some decent Moorcock and calvert material on board, plus Nik was around a bit too. But the arrival of Davey added to Brock letting Huwie ruin his own vocal melodies live and get way too busy on the guitar solos tended to edge Hawkwind further towards a sloppy metal mess - and not a swirling one like in the days of Space Ritual, but a dull one. Bainbridge has never been a first class synthesist - put him up against Blake, Simon House or Richard Barbieri (Japan/Porcupine Tree) and he's predictable and nowhere near virtuoso level...and I tend to agree with Ginger about Harvey's basswork too - it's just not very inspiring. Pity he got shoved off the bass to fit Davey in though....

As a huge Moorcock fan (during his last commercial heyday in the 80s, fantasy readers used to travel many miles to speak to me about the man's work in the bookshops I managed -and I hosted three signings/readings with MM himself back in those days), I've always seen 'Black Sword' as a missed opportunity. I should say that the remaster from Atomhenge is much better than the original CD and vinyl, so it's a must. The problem is with many of the songs - they're just too monolithic and conventional, the kind of thing iron Maiden would come up with on an inspired day (this is damning with faint praise by the way). The synth instrumentals were the highlights of the live shows and are on the CD too - 'Shade Gate' and 'Pulsing Cavern' are lovely mini-masterpiece of 80s ambient and although I love Dave Brock's folky, nasal voice, 'Song of the Swords', 'Elric the Enchanter' and 'Horn of Destiny' do tend toward the leaden and dull. 'Zarozinia' plods too much, 'The Demise' and 'Chaos Army' are filler designed to give the listener an idea what some of the stage show would be like, but 'Sleep of a Thousand Tears' is fabulous, a track worthy of inclusion on the last important Hawkwind album ("Choose Your Masques"), but then it sets a great Moorcock poem to music and doesn't outstay its welcome. 'Needle Gun' is good fun, referencing Jerry Cornelius, of course (Like Elric, another avatar of The Eternal Champion) and one of the few more metally Hawkwind cust of the era I like - it does remind me of 'Kings of Speed' from "Warrior on the Edge of Time" (the REAL Eternal Champion Hawks album) in tone and feel...and 'Speed' does of course reference Cornelius too, as 'Mr C' and 'take a tasty trip on Frank and Beesley's Rocket Ship' in the lyrics. If you don't know what this means, go and buy 'The Cornelius Quartet' by Moorcock NOW. It's essential reading for all fans of 1970s Hawkwind.

Another highlight is Huw's 'Sea King' which at least moves the narrative forward very well in song form, depicting the chapter in 'Elric of Melnibone' when our anti-hero's cousin Yyrkoon chucks him overboard a ship. As all serious Hawkfans know, Huw wrote other songs for the Elric show which didn't make it onto the studio album - shame, as they are much better than Brock and davey's contributions. 'Dreaming City' and 'Moonglum' both appear on 'Live Chronicles' (the CD of the two London gigs that closed the Elric tour) and they're both excellent. When I'm playing Fantasy Albums in my head, I have visions of replacing the latter part of 'Elric the Enchanter' and 'Horn of Destiny' with studio versions of these tracks. Shame there are no studio versions.' Moonglum' in particular has a great melody and lyrics, brilliant stuff, Huwie!

So, the ideal version of this album doesn't exist. What it needed was Calvert on board to improve the lyrics, a different bassist and keyboard player and a bit of violin to broaden the sonic palatte - Hawkwind had stupidly by now dropped acoustic instruments altogether, which limited their tone colours and made them seem lumpen and dismal; 80s synths were no match for 70s analogues and acoustic instruments clashing against the electronic ones. There's no virtuoso or stylist here - no House, Turner, Blake- so it;s all a bit plodding overall.

Bonus tracks: 'Arioch' is Davey-penned and fast, but not exciting (check out Inner City Unit's 'Zodiac' from "The President's Tape" for a lesson in this sort of thing, Al), while 'Night of the Hawks' a tiresome tub-thumping anthem with very little meaning (but its nice to hear Lemmy there). The rest of the 'Earth Ritual preview E.P.' is excellent -'Green Finned Demon' is classic Brock/Calvert, lovely wordplay, but the best version is on 'The Business Trip Live'. But then whomever mastered the CD makes a MASSIVE error - the crossfade between 'Dream Dancers' and 'Dragons & Fables' has been removed and there's a track-gap silence instead. WHAT????

This is an outrage. The eerie, trippy 'Dream Dancers' (one of the best digital synth instrumental fillers Hawkwind ever recorded, up there with 'Berlin Axis') made a perfect, sublime overture to the sweeping yet light-footed majesty of 'Dragons & Fables', Huw's finest songwriting moment. Removing the crossfaded segue on the Atomhenge version means that the vinyl original remains essential, as does the first appearance of these tracks on CD (the 'Mighty Hawkwind Classics' EP compilation from Anagram). Shame, as the Atomhenge remaster of both tracks is excellent, but splicing the tracks into two has killed them for me. Argh!!!! I'm annoyed!!!

Maybe I'll compile my own version of the Elric saga as told by Hawkwind, using the best bits of this CD and 'Live Chronicles'. Overall, I'm glad I bought the remaster (cover art is lovely,better than the dreadful black and red of the original CD and more like the vinyl sleeve) despite my frustration with some of the songs, my eternal battle with the spirit of Alan Davey and the spliced 'Dream Dancers'/'Dragons and Fables'.

Stephen E Andrews, author, '100 Must Read Fantasy Novels', '100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels'
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on 12 March 2013
Not the biggest fan of Hawkwind, but do like some of their stuff. The Chronicle of the Black Sword is a truly a good album.
Got the download to replace an old cassette tape that got chewed up. Like the extra tracks on this version of it.
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