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Album Reviews : Ironwood – :Fire:Water:Ash:

By on March 6, 2009

Ironwood’s debut EP was one of the most authentic sounding folk/viking releases I had ever come across. The low, spoken vocals and fantastic use of natural sound effects made for an immersion that most bands in the genre can only dream of. Thankfully “:Fire:Water:Ash:”, the band’s first full length album, is just as captivating. If anything, the 70+ minute runtime just makes this experience even more overwhelming as you really do have the time to get lost in the music.

First up, if you were a fan of the EP, then you have absolutely no reason not to buy this. All three songs featured on the EP have been re-recorded, undergone name changes, and been given a spot on this full length. The jump in sound quality between releases means that these songs sound even better than before, and they blend in perfectly with the rest of the album.

As for the new songs, everything is just even better. The writing is more mature, more cohesive, and just sounds smoother overall. The musicianship is top notch, with every instrument having its special place. Something that’s always nice to see for a change is the prominent use of bass guitar; it’s right up there in the mix, and there are even a few solos. The clumsy transitions between lighter and heavier material that appear occasionally on the older tracks simply don’t exist on the new, and the band have branched out even more with their use of whispered and spoken vocals to create some truly extraordinary, and somewhat haunting passages. The latter half of “Jarnvidr Gallows”, and most of “The Serpent Seeks Its Tail” are prime examples of eerie music at its peak.

I mentioned in my review of the EP that the band certainly don’t hesitate to leave their metal influences behind entirely and focus more on the acoustic passages. Well this album proves that indefinitely, with the majority of the heavier material actually being within the rerecordings. Ironwood have delved even further into the softer side of their sound, but they have managed to keep those passages varied enough so at no point does it start to drag on. The amount of moods created in the various acoustic passages is just incredible. One song may have you calm as can be, while the next will have you looking over your shoulder waiting for something to jump out. I know I’m harping on about this a tad, but these guys just know how to involve you in the music.

Special mention goes “Love in Death”, despite having the worst track name on here, it is easily the highlight. The second half is simply breathtaking, with a beautiful mix of acoustic and electric guitars, several perfectly placed guitar and bass solos and vocal melodies incorporating a mix of harsher growls and a variety of clean vocals, both spoken and sung. There is a lot going on in the song, but it always works together just flawlessly.

If you’re a fan of folk/pagan/Viking influenced music, then this is a must have album. And if are yet to delve into this amazing area of music, then jump straight into the deep end and get your hands on this. 9.5/10

For fans of: Agalloch, Moonsorrow, Primordial.

Band: Ironwood
Album: :Fire:Water:Ash:
Year: 2009
Genre: Progressive/Viking Metal
Label: Independant
Origin: Sydney, Australia
myspace.com/ironwoodband

Track listing:
1. Önd Ascending
2. The Oncoming Storm
3. The Raven Song
4. Jarnvidr Gallows
5. The Serpent Seeks Its Tail
6. Tide of Memory
7. Love in Death <- Reviewers choice
8. River of Fire
9. Eihwaz Descending

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.