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Album Reviews : Ironwood – Ironwood EP

By on November 16, 2008

The Australian metal scene isn’t somewhere you often find bands based around Norse mythology, nor bands who focus on nature-inspired atmospherics and long neofolk passages. That’s the main reason why Sydney’s Ironwood have shocked me so much here. This debut release has some of the most authentic sounding material I’ve heard from the genre. The basis of the band is nothing overly unique – a mixture of slow, folky acoustic passages and much harsher black metal sections. It’s the combination of the deep, clean, spoken vocals and the amazing atmosphere created during the lighter parts that make this an extremely immersive listen. If any album is going to make you feel as in you have been transported into old Midgard, then this is it.

A crack of thunder begins the EP with some beautiful yet eerie guitars climbing over the top of the storms. “Veer” is an epic, 11-minute journey through everything that makes up this band. It builds up with some extremely prominent bass lines which is always something nice to hear for a change, and something you’ll hear quite a bit throughout this EP.  The great, harsh vocals will be appreciated by all black metal fans but by the 4 minute mark, the clean vocals will have been the deciding factor for whether you keep listening or not. They are mostly spoken, and in a very deep voice. They are pretty much as ‘viking’ as music gets. However, I can imagine many people will simply find them awkward and somewhat annoying. If you concentrate on them, that is what you will hear, but if you take a step back and absorb the sound as a whole, it really creates a fantastic mood. At times, when spoken with a slight whisper, the vocals sound haunting and sorrowful, but at other times they are almost inspiring.

“The Tree” is an entirely acoustic track, there’s not a scrap of metal here. It’s quite clear to me, and I’m sure everybody else that listens to this, that Ironwood aren’t afraid to leave their metal aspects out of the picture if need be. This band is all about creating the perfect atmosphere. The clean vocals on this track are more on the singing side, rather than spoken, and flow along with the music beautifully. It’s these clean passages where the band really shines. Have a read along to the lyrics while listening to this song and you will truly get lost in it.

“I feel the pounding pulse
Well driven waters
Beneath the bark
Beneath my skin…”

Up until this point, it’s hard to find any serious faults. There are the occasional awkward transitions between heavier and lighter parts, and the production isn’t fantastic, but there’s nothing prominent enough to deter from the music too much. Unfortunately, the beginning of the final track, “Song of the Dane” brings that near-perfect run to a halt. The heavily distorted riffing that opens this song is a bit on the boring side. Even the heaviest and harshest material on the opening track had something interesting going for it, whether that be some cool lead work or just a catchy overall beat, however it just comes off as a bit bland an uninspired here. Luckily that only lasts for a bit under two minutes before the track subsides with the quietest passage of the album. Quiet acoustic guitars, subdued clean vocals, a collection of subtle, deep ambient sounds and the occasional seabird sounds sneaking in over the top make this one extremely brooding passage. The song then flies into a speedy guitar solo and back into the heavier side of things to finish off.

This release may only run for 24 minutes, but it’s certainly an epic listen. If you are a fan of the folkier or more progressive side of metal then this band is a must hear. Hell, even if you aren’t a fan, then have a listen to this band and they may change your mind. And as a last resort, if you are sure that this isn’t you’re type of music but you have an interest in Norse mythology, then at least have a read of the lyrics because they really are poetry here.

As a final note, as bloody brilliant as this EP really is, I really hope that this band one day decides to write and record an entirely clean/acoustic album. I can imagine that being a truly mindblowing release.

Get this EP. 9.2/10

Band: Ironwood
Album: Ironwood
Year: 2007
Genre: Progressive/Folk/Viking
Label: Independant
Origin: Sydney, Australia
www.myspace.com/ironwoodband

Tracklisting:
1. Veer
2. The Tree<- Reviewers choice
3. Song of the Dane

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.