Dec 3, 2012

War Iron - "The Fifth and Final Sun" ...

When I say that I like my music “solid” I mean two things. The first meaning is that I like music from my fave bands in a less ethereal, “volatile” format than digital one (although I think all the best possible of the digital diffusion of music).
The other meaning is that I love music that is crushingly heavy, be it fast or slow. So it comes as natural for me to get stuck into and addicted to bands devoted to creating oppressive soundscapes bulldozing your mind, like for example those bands adopting twin bass or else downtuning and distorting their guitars as to make them sound as distorted bass. UK twin bass sludge-doom band War Iron, from Belfast - Northern Ireland, had been a great discover for me last year (read my previous post  HERE), even if these guys have been around for a while in this and in other reference acts for the British and Irish heavy music scenes. Especially last year War Iron massively conquered the world doom scene with their monumental debut full-length album, the plus 30 minutes-long two-tracks album The Faceless Sea. This haunting and devastating album is out on Infected Wound Records as CD and, since January 2012, on Punkerama Records as beautiful, limited edition, hand-numbered sea-blue vinyl LP mastered by James Plotkin.

Just to refresh memory, War Iron was started in 2006 by singer Andrew Bagwell aka Baggy and drummer Martin Harvey aka Marty. The band arose from the ashes of Belfast fuzzy doom act The Naut, together with Slomatics. After some changes, War Iron’s present-day line-up involves the two bass players Dave McCallum and Ross Duffy in addition to Baggy and Marty. Slomatics and War Iron share Marty as drummer.  These guys cannot exhaust their charge of heaviness in one band only: bassist Dave is also in the death-thrash metal band Devilmakesthree whereas Baggy and Ross (who was is in the Irish “sl-oom” band Two Tales of Woe) are militating in the fierce sludge crust act Fuckhammer. The guys took long in releasing their debut album due to delays and problems piling up, including incredible adversities like the demolition of the recording studio! Now that’s a crushing doom band, eh eh … While attending the fine Dublin Doom Days Festival - Chapter IV in late September 2012 I had the privilege of seeing a punishing live exhibition by War Iron ending a first “taste” of the new album, track “Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum”.  Fortunately we didn’t have to wait long for being further knocked down by a new, substantial dose of twin bass heaviness, as late October  2012 saw the release of War Iron’s new album: The Fifth and Final Sun, again out on Punkerama Records as CD (for the moment).

Album The Fifth and Final Sun is 40 minutes for 4 tracks. A “barrage of heaviness” aiming to “crush souls and maim minds of an unsuspecting world”, according to the intentions of these doom gangsters. Well, they did it again, even if the world had been warned about them … War Iron are fascinated by historical legends and myths and the huge natural entities. Previously they had sung an old British poem about the implacable sea and the dangerous pettiness of humans, and depicted the shapes of the enigmatic rock heads of Easter Island on their cover art. In the new album they again stray the boundaries of the “local”, European heritage. In spite of the fact that the final monumental track is devoted to the pirate Jeanne de Clisson and her Black Fleet, War Iron travel in space and time to Central America. The album title and the pre-Columbian pyramid in the blazing occult-looking CD artwork hint to the exploration of Aztec legends. One of them is about the origin of the sun and of the moon, about the creation of five suns, about the destruction of four of them and about the humankind living in the critical time of the fifth and last sun. And we are facing the enigma of the Maya prediction about the end of the world (or better, of time) in a short while …

The music is more effective than any excess words of mine for conveying the (menacing) message. War Iron still employ the winning style heard in the previous album, i.e the oscillation between  tricky, highly atmospheric, almost silent parts with soft vibrations and the devastating charges of plodding dual bass blows plus Baggy’s devilish hissing roars. Riffs are always tremendously heavy and vary from simple combinations of notes aimed to make you feel dizzy while suffocating, to complex patterns. This great variation probably, together with the great narrative power, earned the band the of “prog” sub-tag.   In this new album we can definitely recognize a style, War Iron’s own style. Although my impression is that in the new album heaviness has turned into ultra-heaviness and the general trend is towards a higher dynamics. The first part of the opening track Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum is marked by such coupling of contrasting “moods” although most of this long suite (over 8 minutes), like the rest of the album, is definitely dominated by the deafening vibrations of the bass chords that sound like mountains crumbling down. Such dense, dull and extremely raw sounds are arranged in a sinister leading melody which gets hypnotic, if not almost obsessive, in its cyclic repetition. The sense of being listening to something otherworldly and huge is further enhanced by some chaotic, pulverizing interplay between the ultra-distorted basses where sweeps over the fretboard evoke roars like in a rocket engine. Monster …

In contrast with the menacing impact of the opening track, the leading melody in the second, almost 10 minutes-long suite, The Place Where the Silent Ones Kill, is dripping sick, dirty groove like a basket full of rotten tomatoes. This track is pure swampy sludge in the vein of Grief, Buzzov*en, Weedeater, Morbid Wizard or so, but made ultra-heavy and corrosive, like drinking molten tar with glass shards sticking out. But the addition of drony noises and those obsessive, meandering thundering riffs can turn groove into something sick and dark. In this song double vocals can be heard as well: hellish hissing peeling your skin and deep, occult background growls.  The third track, (Crossing) The Sacred Tree, is the shortest of all, “only” 7:30 minutes occupied by a sinister rhythmic chanting developing like an epic battle poem. The track is plodding but quite dynamic as well thanks to the complex combination of braided riffs that is used to describe the end of the world and of time into a magmatic chaos in the core of the track.  In this track the band again employs that crushing oscillation between hammering sounds and breathtaking silence thereby relying on shocking contrast for keeping tension always extremely high in spite of the numbing effect of the repetitive buzzy sound. The final part of this track is emblematic.

The fourth and final, eh eh, track, the monumental “Black Fleet”, is bringing us back to European history and to sea tales as it tells about ferocious lady pirate Jeanne de Clisson and her black-painted fleet. A different feature here is represented by the addition of a female voice speaking in French in a somehow mechanical way and overlapping the vibrations of the basses. The base melody in this track is less occult and duly more epic. The length of the suite allows the band to fully develop a wide range of effects and combinations of their sounds. I was particularly struck by a highly atmospheric central section where obsessive drony noise is backed by a great rambling charge of the drums. But, well, the whole track is impressive. 

War Iron are definitely eligible for the soundtrack of the end of the world to those who appreciate polyedric if not schizophrenic, hieratic to extremely raw, ultra-heavy doom and sludge sounds, with or without twin bass. War Iron possess the unbearable heaviness of bands like Horse Latitudes, Loinen, Stumm or Conan, the murky, crushing groove of sludge-doom bands like Weedeater, Grief, Seven  Foot Spleen, Spancer, Moho, Moloch, Salome, and the brutal, suffocating mixture of noise and slowness like in Khanate. Just to name a few.  But War Iron are no Frankenstein monster. They are monster, indeed, but with a personal, unique style.

If War Iron’s sounds are slow, things are moving quickly in Belfast, eh … The guys are organizing several shows there before the end of the year. So those who can, go and get your hairs instantly dyed blond and your ears bleeding by War Iron.
Moreover, before the end of the year another release by War Iron might be out, i.e. a split with the Glaswegian sludge-doom band Headless Kross. The new year, 2013, will see the a limited release on tape of the 2nd album, and then several UK and Europe dates. People going to Roadburn, watch out as you may get hold of this bunch of ultra-heavy doomsters playing somewhere in Tilburg (hopefully!).  For more details, ask Baggy. He utters like a demon when he sings but he is very friendly. In the meantime, get hold of War Iron’s new album The Fifth and Final Sun, and the previous one as well (especially in that sea-blue vinyl version), from Infected Wound or the Punkerama pages (see links below).

Words: Marilena Moroni

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