The Xenon Codex (1988) sounds like the title of a book by Dan Brown, but itís an album by Hawkwind. It was the successor of Chronicle Of The Black Sword (1985) . At the time, the band consisted of Dave Brock (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Harvey Bainbridge (vocals, keyboards), Huw Lloyd Langton (lead guitar), Alan Davey (bass guitar, vocals) and Richard Chadwick (drums, percussion). In 1987 Hawkwind released In And Outtake, an album compiled of material recorded live in 1982 and some brief recording sessions in 1987. In January 1988, a lengthy tour was booked for April and their management requested a new album that could be released matching the beginning of that tour. Plans for recording a new concept album for Michael Butterworthís Ledge Of Darkness were put aside. The Xenon Codex was written, recorded and mixed between February and April 1988.
Opener The War I Survived is based on Kurt Vonnegutís novel Slaughterhouse 5. Itís a typical Hawkwind rock song that can be found on every Hawkwind-album with different lyrics and maybe slightly different chords, but in essence itís the same song over and over again. Wastelands Of Sleep is much more interesting. Itís atmospherical, spacey and with melancholic moods. Neon Skyline starts as a typical Hawkwind rock song, but changes into Lost Chronicals with a nice piano interlude and a guitar solo. Tides is a fine instrumental track with the sound of seagulls. Heads is a melancholic song with a fine guitar solo. Mutation Zone, E.M.C. and Good Evening are more experimental tracks. On these tracks Hawkwind use digital samplers that became more affordable at the end of the eighties and therefore were widely used. I think Sword Of The East is the best song of the album combining rock and atmospheric elements in one song.
The bonus tracks are all live tracks recorded in Nottingham on December 7th 1988. They illustrate that Hawkwind is above all a live band. As a whole, The Xenon Codex is an average Hawkwind-album. The songs are not bad at all, but not exceptional either, although the album contains all the typical Hawkwind-elements.
*** Erik Gibbels (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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