posted on 6/2007 By:
Well, well, well, this little demo was certainly a pleasant surprise. Ironwood is yet another unsigned band throwing their hat into the Norse mythology inspired metal ring, but they’re putting a fresh spin on the well-traveled path. Half of this EP is devoted to quiet, beautifully conveyed neofolk elements -- clean sung vocals and acoustic instrumentation -- and it’s during these expansive, tranquil passages that Ironwood truly shines. Second tune, “The Tree”, for example, is a beautiful acoustic piece that serves as a faultless link between the two longer, more metal cuts of the EP. The deeply sung vocals are elegantly layered and fit perfectly alongside the melancholy acoustics, and despite its relative shortness (4:07), it definitely stands as the highlight of this fine demo. Similar neofolk elements are used in abundance in the 11-minute opener, “Veer”, and 8.5-minute closer, “Song of the Dane” as well. “Veer” flows into an extensive quiet passage halfway through that incorporates soft rainfall and light plucking before eventually spotlighting a moving spoken word piece, and “Song of the Dane” gradually breaks into an equally pastoral stretch that blends in the sounds of gulls crying during flight, lulling the listener into a cozy state of serenity before ripping into a jarring, acidic, blackened solo.
When Ironwood breaks into metal, it’s generally split between a fairly speedy, blackened variety and a slower, more galloping attack. Both “Veer” and “Song of the Dane” sport moments where the drumming and riffing is vicious, quick, and peppered with matching rasped vocals, but things really get interesting when the metal’s curbed to a trot and each player is allowed a bit more room to breathe. In particular, Henry Lauer’s Steve Harris-like bubbling bass stands out as a shining point on the longer cuts, but truthfully, all the players present are quite nimble at their respective wares. The EP closes on a triumphant note with a nice head-banging riff, deeply sung chorus, and conquering, Hammerheart-esque “oh-oh-OH-OH-oooohhh’s” layered in the background.
My only criticism of this work has to do primarily with the production/mix of the metal sections during the first and last cut. When compared to the crystal clear, rich neofolk passages, the metal segments sometimes come across as murky and in need of some extra oomph to help deliver the final blow. This is especially apparent at the beginning of “Song of the Dane”, where the music seems particularly mired and the riffs could really use a bit of beefing up to help deliver a killing strike. Of course the fact that this is the band’s first offering to the public makes these issues all the more forgivable, and even when considering the occasional murkiness, this EP still shows a great deal of promise for this young band. If you’re a fan of Nord-metal, and you dig neofolk in the vein of projects such as Of the Wand & the Moon, I’d say you should give these young Aussies your attention. And at a mere $8 to your doorstep, I’d definitely consider it money well spent. Very promising.
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