IRON GRIFFIN is a musical endeavour and a record you have to approach with a little bit of background understanding. Upon first listen, you might be under the impression that this was a sort of “for the fun of it” record. In which case you’d be right. Drummer Oskari Räsänen (MAUSOLEUM GATE) has taken it upon himself to record a bunch of tracks, as a solo effort, just for the hell of it. The entire EP comes off his own back, with the only additional input from fellow Finn, vocalist Toni Pentikäinen. With that in mind, and understanding that this was an EP intended to encapsulate a time of rock and metal gone by, is vital to understanding this release fully.
A short Intro, simply named as such, has a nice psychedelic, synthy inspiration to the opening, something akin to the Stranger Things or X Files opening theme, pleasant and not too complex. Straight off the bat, the guitarwork on first song Message From Beyond feels very IRON MAIDEN. While there are obvious stylistic choices to the mixing here, to shinning guitars and the snappy drums, unfortunately the vocals here feel too pushed back, too far in the distance to muster the grandeur that the singing style requires. The riffs are nothing to shout about, sticking to a simple style that really leave you craving some high octave fretwork or some knarly shredding.
However, the mood of Metal Conquest is more in keeping with the vintage feel that this EP is going for, a more mystical styling, that ever 70’s rock feel smooth and natural over the guitars. It’s a simple take on some of the big iconic bands we all know, as well as keeping that very bootleg feel of the time. Journey to the Castle of King has the first notable melody that might keep you fooled that this was a total band. At that point alone, it’s impressive. The vocals really soar, the guitars do just enough to keep the interest as much as the lyrical whimsy. Simple is obviously the way forward here, taking that BLACK SABBATH stance of easy headbanging riffs and without the need to venture into anything technical.
Lord Inquisitor is for sure the most fun on this release. Perhaps it’s due to the fact you are given enough time to ease into this very old school sound, or it could be the change of pace to a more high energy beat. There’s so much more going on with the harmonising guitars, and the superb vocal performance. Everything is at its strongest here, tempo changes, a very full sound to the entire track, it’s a good note to end on. Again, you can understand that all this is created by one man, and there’s such potential. If IRON GRIFFIN implemented a guitarist, you could honestly have something really unique – although hats off to Räsänen for composing all musical elements including the riffs, even without this being his main instrument
While it’s not going to win any awards, the fact that a single individual has created such an EP, which has been better than some full bands releases of the same ilk, is commendable. However, in places it is also it’s downfall, losing momentum at the crucial moments when something impressive feels like it should happen. Nevertheless, IRON GRIFFIN is a truly unusual feat of self-exploration and ideas, proving to anyone who still foolishly believes that drummers aren’t talented musicians, that they are very sorely mistaken.
Iron Griffin is out now via Gates of Hell Records.
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