Dec 11, 2011
War Iron – The Faceless Sea EP ...
Generalization is never healthy and fair, but War Iron, from Belfast, is a further proof, if needed, that the British doom scene is alive and punishingly kicking, and awesome. I should have known right from reading about the history of the band…
War Iron is a twin bass doom metal band that started its activity in 2006 after the breakup of the sludge doom metal band The Naut. If the name of this obscure band doesn’t tell you much, as it happened with me at first, well, be aware that members of The Naut split between War Iron and heavyweight Slomatics. And War Iron are no less heavyweight, actually even more, in many senses …
The album’s line-up consists of Andrew aka Baggy on vocals, Dave (McCallum) and Ross on bass and Martin on drums. Imposing Baggy and Martin were vocalist and drummer of The Naut, respectively, whereas bassist Dave is also in the death-thrash metal band Devilmakesthree. As mentioned on the band’s official webpage, “originally Dave was to take on guitar but it was decided it just wasn't heavy enough and the human race needed more punishment in the shape of two bass players”. Lol … Listen to these guys and you’ll understand that the “battle caveman doom metal”, to quote the kickass Conan’s t-shirt, can swim very well!
War Iron released a first demo in 2008 and entered studio in 2010 to release their debut EP The Faceless Sea across 2010 and 2011 via label Infected Wound Records (CD version). A vinyl version should be out via label Punkerama Records.
The Faceless Sea EP is two tracks for about 33 intense, crushing minutes, Inch Cape (12:09 minutes) and Face The Sea (20:49).
When I first heard the EP before reading titles and what the lyrics were about, I sincerely thought it was musically depicting one of the violent incursions/invasions/attacks made by Vikings to the villages and cloisters along the northern coasts of the British Isles during early Middle Age. Well, the literary sources of inspiration for the EP are a bit different but still they involve dangers from the sea, nasty deeds and bloody battles.
The first suite, Inchcape, is a pictorial song, i.e., is the equivalent of a classic artistic painting, where sounds, and not colours and brushes, are used to illustrate a legend, or maybe a historical event, accounted for in an old classic poem.
The style of the band, sludge-doom with raw ultra-heavy sounds and hissing vocals, is such that one would expect that instruments, more than the voice, are used. On the contrary in this band vocals are very important. This first long track is flooded with voice, as singer Baggy basically declaims Robert Southey’s long poem “The Inchcape Rock”, bearing a sinister Coleridge-like atmosphere, with his chilling ranting hissing in the vein of Weedeater. And this is remarkable because of the effort involved (I guess), because of the sense of anguish Baggy’s voice is able to communicate and because of the fact that one can actually follow the poem through the hissing.
Therefore let’s sum up the story: the Inchcape reef, off the east coast of Angus, in Scotland, is a well known spot for the danger of its underwater shallow rocks. During the Middle Age (14th century) a warning bell had been installed by an abbot. Ships were hearing the bell from the coast and didn’t crash, and so the mariners were sending blessings to the abbot. But the rope of bell was intentionally cut by Ralph, a felon, a pirate, who was bothered by these blessings to the abbot. Ralph was then a victim of his own foolish deed as after one year he and his ship crashed and sunk against the dangerous rocks underwater, and the bells that he eventually heard were the Hell’s bells! A fine picture of the foolish consequences of envy and evil – because making something that is useless and that has even bad consequences for the agent, well, that’s stupidity by definition.
Anyway, for a handful of seconds Inchcape starts in a quite idyllic way, the reassuring sound of a rather calm wave on the shore and the sound of a bell. Then there comes the buzz, the menancing buzz of one of the hyper-distorted basses that will accompany the next 33 minutes in the background …
And with the buzz also Baggy’s hissing raw voice starts repeating the verses of Richard Southey’s poem. The pace is mostly slow and rhythmic and pummelling until 3:40 minutes. Then the tempo suddenly increases and singers, bassists and drummer get crazy and explode into fast and furious thrashy attacks coming as a seismic wave for a few minutes, according to the events in the story. A sinister silence opens a central rather quiet part in preparation to the final disaster told by the poem. Verses recited by a sweet, childish lady’s voice backed or accompanied by the leading bass, by the last trembling toll of the bell and the sweet sound of the waves, is almost hinting to a luring mermaid’s chant predicting dire consequences. After this central, quiet part the obsessive buzz vibrating onto a reverbered background is the only sound left and it is proceeds almost like a meandering snake. The buzz cannot conceal the noise of the sea in the background. But the dull buzz is numbing the senses and you can only slightly grasp sinister noises of something happening in the sea in a distance. No alert, the foolish act of a dull evil mind comes back and the disaster is taking place.
Track Face the Sea is again “trve cavemen battle doom”, where the band’s guys give no refrain to their fury and unleash another slab of raw and monolithic sludge doom metal that possesses the toxic hypnotic character of Pombagira. The scene is different but duly involves raging seas, never ending fights against Nature and between humans and the monoliths by definition: no, not the ritual menhirs in Stonehenge but the unsettling huge faces of Rapa Nui, aka Easter Island. There’s a terrible crazy story of massacres and human and environmental devastations lasted for centuries behind those rock heads, and the mammoth fury of War Iron’s sound is perfect for giving us a “glimpse” of +20 minutes of this tormented deeds …
The band guys define their style as “sludge doom prog”, but in the first as well as, and especially in this second monumental track the band is able to create an even more faceted sound. There some great fierce double vocals are duelling and the hypnotic bass-driven down-tempo rhythms alternate with some great up-beat parts, occasionally again death-thrash in character. The latter can be appreciated in some insets, like the one heard after about 3 minutes and the other one at about 10-11 minutes. The slow parts dominated by the characteristic bass-driven buzz heard before host some unexpectedly dynamic drumming patterns which are contrasting and quite interesting. Vocals, with the single scary hissing or the periodical coupling of hissing and dull growls, are again an important, or even fundamental part of the overall sound. As a matter of fact there’s much singing done in a rhythmic, almost weirdly swinging way, that adds to the repetitiveness of the leading buzz. As in the previous track, there are a few almost silent parts interrupting the obsessively repeating, drony buzzy rhythm of the suite. In these relieving parts just a soft pulsation of one of the basses almost simulates a solitary heart beat. After the last of these semi-silent pauses at the 15th minute of this suite a frightening cavemen-like battle cry is unleashed. In the final minutes of the track the development of the battle is carried out by repeating the leading refrain in a crescendo of noise and tempo till a sharp interruption. The track is closed by the soft sound of calm waves along a sea shore. Battles and bloodshed are quickly gone, swallowed by the spires of Time, just the mighty sea washes those bloody shores as if nothing had happened.
War Iron’s music may be definitely set in the “extreme” range for sludge-doom for the choice of the instruments, of the singing style and of the mind-blowing and suffocating drony buzz bombing, however the sinister Sabbathian, “fat” riffs building up the leading melodies possess much groove.
The tracks are dominated by the obsessive hypnotic monotonous buzzy bass vibration and peculiar “filthy” chanting. This is an ideal nest for the periodical up-tempo explosions where the band’s guys display their full fire power. So I guess it may be said that War Iron share some features with said Conan, Pombagira, Weedeater, Eyehategod, Bibilic Blood, Spancer, Ufomammut, etc., and with some more obscure as well as emerging bands with heavy and murky sludgy sound, like Semtex, Slabdragger, Invdrs or Sea Bastard.
For my personal tastes there are not enough twin bass doom-sludge bands around, so, guys, please, don’t stop and get ready with some more “punishment” ... 9/10
Review by Marilena Moroni
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