One of the more surprising comeback in the last few years saw the announcement from legendary sludge pioneers IRON MONKEY proclaiming their return and first new recorded material since the tragic death of frontman Johnny Morrow back in 1999. This new incarnation sees founding members Jim Rushy (then guitars, now guitars and vocals) and Steve Watson (then guitars, now bass) welcome new member Scott Briggs (drums) into the fold and sign a deal with Relapse Records for 9-13, nine tracks of bruising noise.
The album opens with Crown Of Electrodes, which from its intro throws up some nice punk racket before it soon settles into a classic murky sludge with Rushby‘s vocals piercing through the noise. A decent enough start, and that is followed by the slower, doomed Omegamangler. This is a more of a stoner vibe but with those venomous vocals again layered over it. This sound flows through the title track next as well, sounding like a very pissed off KARMA TO BURN. The album ups the tempo again with Toadcrucifier – R.I.P.PER which is probably one of the most accessible tracks on the album, at least the first maybe four minutes before it descends into chaos.
From then on the album takes a turn to the hardcore influence featured with only The Rope and album closer Moreland St. Hammervortex slowing things down, the latter a near ten minute epic that eventually just as earlier tracks descends into noise as the album comes to its conclusion. Although having a fifty minute running time, it doesn’t seem that long of an album, but it does what its sets out to do and doesn’t overstay its welcome, which is a nice change nowadays.
This was always going to be a tricky release, and almost immediately upon the announce of their return, their seemed to be a split among fans between who was for and against the band returning without Johnny Morrow. Taken as an album in its own right, its a decent enough release, it has got some of the hallmarks of their sound like the huge riffs and menacing, almost nihilistic approach that made their earlier releases vital listening. That said there were a few points that niggled a little. Rushby‘s vocals are impressive and suit this collection of tracks really well, but it lacks the range and power that made Morrow such a unique vocalist so it does feel as though it is missing something. The production is also a lot clearer than previously, so a bit of that raw, filthy edge has gone as well. With those changes and the change of roles within the band, maybe a new start with a new band might have taken those doubts away. IRON MONKEY set themselves ridiculously high standards in the past and although this is a good album, its just falls short of their almost peerless catalogue.
9-13 is out now via Relapse Records.
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