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
Stream and download the album via
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Iron Witch online
Back catlog on Bandcamp
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!!!!