Wednesday, 14 September 2016

IRON WITCH : A HARROWED DAWN LP


Liverpool's Iron Witch have been a mainstay of the underground heavy scene for near 5 years I have been a huge fan for about 3 of those years I have wrote these guys up before on my other blog (You can check out my other post HERE ) and I now have the pleasure of Bringing you my thoughts on their debut LP "A Harrowed Dawn"

First some background, Having made some demo's for a debut album in 2014 original guitarists Dan & Sam decided to part company with the band Leaving the Core Trio of Will Adams - Drums, Chris Fane - Vocals & Rick Owen - Bass where this would be disastrous for most bands these guys are such firm believers in what they do a reshuffle was in order, vocalist Chris Fane moved to guitar and Dave Mould from Iron Witch side project Siege Mentality was drafted in to take over vocals and Mark Hughes from local heavyweight sludgers Crypt Lurker joined on 2nd guitar. Ladies and gentleman we have the new improved Iron Witch 2016!

Recorded by Chris Fielding at the awesome Skyhammer studios and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege the sound of this album is and not overstating things here, immense, What's immediately apparent is that these guys have cleaned up their sound drastically I had always loved what Iron Witch do, their North West England take on the filthy sound of the likes of Eyehategod , Buzzov.en etc was great, however despite loving their sound I found the actual songs sometimes hard to discern from one another, This is not the case here, Iron Witch have now formed a sound that is something that is very different from their original sound whilst still retaining their best elements and certainly on the album the sound is presented clean and bright yet still hard as nails and CRUSHINGLY heavy! I had the pleasure of seeing this new re-invigorated line up before the album came out and let me tell you, live, this new material was utterly destroying and of the 3 times I've seen them this was by far the best and Dave Mould is most definitely an imposing and capable frontman...


First off there is no actual "gaps" between the first 3 songs which is great because it flows like a 3 piece "movement" as well as working as individual songs, opener "Beauty & Rot" begins with some deceptively light picking and some gentle cymbal wash which creates a nice somber mood and as the guitars come in piece by piece it gives a real sense of dread but as soon as that first snare hit and all the instruments come in together it's what i like to call a "FUUUUUCK" moment anyone who doesn't want to just grip the nearest surface grit your teeth and start slow-motion-snapping-your-neck to this monstrous riff well you're definitely reading the wrong blog! Dave Mould providing exactly the kind of unholy roar to compliment the music perfectly, however after just smashing the heavy riff for the first part of the song the nice surprise was the perfectly executed lurch in tempo into the kinda mid paced dirty sludge riffing these guys are known for! These lurches in tempo seem to be a bit of a "motif" for the album and it works brilliantly without jarring the listener or detracting from the slower parts, in second track "Salvation through Nothing" which moves seamlessly from slow heavy riffing to a more mid paced crunch to a spiraling sludge riff that is almost dizzying in the way it spins round the pounding drums (by the way the drums sound AMAZING throughout  a real deep woody thunk to the snare and a real punch in the gut feel to the bass drum an important factor in this kinda music i think some bands tend to underplay). "Machinery through Violence" concludes this opening triptych of tunes beginning with some great effected guitar which gives a real classic Doom metal feel to the intro something that I for one am happy to see rearing it's head in Iron Witch's sound there's a bridge riff which is just heavy as fuck but it's over so quickly you barely got your nod on! However it's the building, dare i say it almost "melodic" guitar work moving in stark contrast to the pounding drums and howling vocals that create something truly astounding for a band this heavy! This all folds down into a brilliantly heavy ending giving you your first breathing space for 15 solid minutes!

So after having a few seconds to catch your breath "Under The Fire" Opens with riffing and drums that put me in mind of early Swans & Godflesh something that was a bit of a surprise to me, but the bleak discordance works well and gives way to a loping mid paced riff which is pure Celtic Frost and back and forth's with an utterly punishing sludge riff which descends into a nice lead break before the song deconstructs into fading feedback, deep bass and drums and this is definitely one of my favorites on the album! "Belly Full Of Rats" to my mind is the only true "Iron Witch business as usual" song on here whilst the band have progressed beyond measure from their original incarnation this song is pure Iron Witch albeit with a less sludgy and more doomy feel and a big progression on their past glories taking the sound to new levels of despair and then crushing it down to a sheer bloody minded oozing riffage!

Whilst if you're a fan of this band this album is chock full of surprises and new fresh ideas it's album closer "Solitude and Decay" that is the real shocker here making up nearly a third of the albums length at nearly 13 mins long it's here for me that a serious move forward in sound and idea is felt the most! I would not have expected a song this long from these guys, i assure you it's not out of lack of descriptive terms or laziness here whilst I may have gone a bit in depth on the other songs I feel i may be blowing some of the "Surprise" element to hearing an album for the first time especially for anyone who was already a fan of the original incarnation of the band and as this is kinda the pinnacle and the closer of the album i feel I wouldn't do it justice breaking it down and describing it to you I shall leave this one for those of you who purchase the album! Let me just say it's a masterful and powerful piece and just left me with my jaw on the ground and as an album closer it is pretty much perfection!

" A Harrowed Dawn" is most definitely one of my albums of the year for a band to pick themselves up from a blow like losing both your guitarists, reshuffle the line up and come back with an album as good as this is truly stunning, whilst early Iron Witch may have been a tiny bit derivative of their influences they have finally come into their own here this album whilst still retaining some of the original sound has moved these guys squarely into the same league as their contemporaries and the bands that influence them. If your a fan of heavy music then you NEED this album now forget anything you have heard or think you know about these guys this is one of the most crushing and vital debuts albums i have heard in a long time and is hopefully gonna draw these guys the audience they have worked so hard for and truly deserve!

Get the gorgeously packaged Vinyl & CD at Secret Law Records Site

http://www.secretlawrecords.com/

Stream and download the album via

Deezer Google play Amazon Spotify & Itunes


Iron Witch online

Facebook

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Merch

http://ironwitch.bigcartel.com/

Back catlog on Bandcamp

https://ironwitch.bandcamp.com/

Iron Witch are doing a short tour with local heavy merchants The Bendal Interlude from personal experience of seeing both bands this is a gig you do not want to miss!!!!








KUROKUMA : ADVORSUS EP


Some of you may remember Sheffield's Kurokuma from my glowing review of their 2014 demo if not go HERE and read about the demo and clue yourself up about these guys as I'd like to do the review here and not repeat their history!These guys are back with a new 3 track EP named "Advorsus" and believe me it's a doozie!

 First off this EP has a HUGE sound courtesy of "Tich at the Mothership" I dunno who Tich is but he's done a stellar job for these guys because as well as keeping the sound heavy you miss none of the subtleties that make this band so original!

When I first hit play on "Advorsus" I was initially slightly disappointed sure it was mountainously heavy and great but I felt with this being their big debut EP I expected it would open more strongly but unlike other bands Kurokuma don't just burst out of the gate and maul you straight away they prefer to sneak up on you...then give you the aural mauling!

Opener "Lust" is a serious hellride of a song the main riff is a kinda cyclic thing that builds and changes subtly throughout so as you barely notice it rising but trust me it does, right up to the halfway point into a punishing squall before being punctuated brilliantly by cowbell this gives way to a pounding but kinda unusual drum beat where the riff changes very subtly into this weird rhythm and riff that for some reason reminds me of music for demented evil circus clowns!!! Now this may sound a bit strange but trust me as with their previous work and their tastes for the unusual this works perfectly!  This leads in to a fantastic epic break that reminds me of a break like modern crust bands such as Tragedy might use before continuing into the cyclic riffing and building on that epic break again to a nice faded ending! Whilst i mainly touch on the musical themes of the song I want to also mention that the bass in this song is phenomenal it sounds ferocious and is popping and roaring all the way through, providing an immense bottom end but also more than that it's like rhythm guitar actually being used to add a depth and texture to the music at the same time and is used with devastating effect! Top that with vocals that seemed to have gone even harsher since the demo and this will destroy your mind both on a level of sheer heaviness and just what the fuck are these guys doing!!! and all this is just in the first song!

Second Track "Dark Triad" clocks in at a near 8 mins opening with darbuka rhythms and Eastern flavored guitar picking the intro draws you in but when the darbuka drops out after a minute or so these guys hit you with a discordant riff which doesn't prepare you for the "drop" because when the bass kicks in it feels almost too early, though I think that is intentional and is a stroke of genius as when the guitars crash down like an avalanche it's just devastating, whilst you think they may have hit you with the best the layers of guitar just keep getting piled on to the point where it's almost claustrophobic in it's bleak and towering sound whilst managing to mutate into a bastardized sludgy head nodder of a riff, which is no mean feat! the trade off on the growled and anguished vocals add to this almost disparate and destructive sound the dynamic is upped by the drums underpinning an almost psychedelic lead break which is just insane and utterly compelling before returning to the sheer avalanche of heaviness before it all collapses slowly and beautifully to a glorious end and altogether just left me stunned!

Third and final track "Kali" is the most conventional of the three and i use the word conventional in reference to these guys very loosely it's a brooding number heavy and sludgy but with great use of dynamics and even has some "chugging" parts to the riff which is where I get "conventional" from but trust me this isn't some kinda lazy mosh-athon riding the "E" for heavy effect the main riff breaks into swirling bridges of psychedelic noise and anguished howls which are really powerful! also the lead break is just amazing just wailing under the crushing main riff with noises I haven't heard since the closing out solos on "Raining Blood" this track just pulses with menace and comes on like a flood of tar just dark and completely inescapable! when the song ended i literally went what the fuck? is that it over? i coulda listened to them hammer that riff for a good 5 mins more!! But i guess that's the key always leave them wanting more!

Kurokuma are one of the most unique bands in the underground scene right now whilst many bands play supremely heavy music and the NXNW area is rife with masters of the monolithic riff and that's no bad thing, it's why i do this blog, but Kurokuma are among a small handful of bands that come along now and again who exist within a scene and take it in completely new and fresh directions, often when bands add different elements to their sound it can get messy and occasionally just does not work however these guys who are, in places as stark and heavy as anything you care to mention can utilize elements like darbuka and psychedelic lead breaks along with riffs  and structures that are unusual yet still heavy and get your head nodding!! This to me is the sound of a unit who play well and play well together to create a sound that is unlike anything else on the heavy scene right now it's as twisted as it is groovy it feels oppressive and yet elates and this is something that is not come by without hard work and investment in your sound To take you on such a mad journey through a mere 3 tracks says to me these guys have barely yet reaching their full potential Odin help me and all of you when they go in to the studio for a full length! I for one cannot wait!

Buy The Cassette or Download at bandcamp

Here : https://medusacrushrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/advorsus

or Here : https://kurokumauk.bandcamp.com/album/advorsus

Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/kurokumauk/?fref=ts

Also Kurokama are about to do their first tour of the UK with the mighty Under (Read about Under HERE) I'll be at the Liverpool show I'd advise you clear your diary and get your ass out to see these guys or curse yourself later...