Iron Monkey is an English sludge metal outfit originally formed in 1994. The band split in 1999 and now nearly two decades later Iron Monkey has returned with their latest record “9-13”. However, this is not the same Iron Monkey from the ’90s. Only two of the original band members have returned with this comeback, most notably the band is missing their singer Johnny Morrow who unfortunately passed away back in 2002. I am not familiar with the band’s previous output so I do not have any preconceptions or prejudices against their latest effort. Based on what I have read, many old fans do complain that on “9-13” Iron Monkey sound completely different, which after 18 years I’m not sure what else you would expect out of any band.
Let’s get into the meat and potatoes of the record now. The sound and the lyrics are certainly punishing. This is the kind of music that is perfect for when you are just pissed off at the world and cannot wait for the apocalypse. I would say the band’s message has a lot of relevancy in the crap-tastic year that is 2017. You won’t find any hope for a better future in the lyrics here, only an understanding of how bad things have gotten and a willingness to burn it all down. The vocals delivering this message aren’t quite my style, but they get the job done and when he is screaming “Damage!” or “Destroyer!” it definitely gets the blood pumping.
The sound on the record is suitably crushing and does the doom and sludge metal genre justice. That being said, Iron Monkey don’t play as slow as a lot of doom nor do they speed through the songs like a thrash metal band. They keep a steady pace through most of the album which helps to keep things moving forward through “9-13″‘s nearly 50 minute length. What impresses me most on the album are the grooves on every song. While listening to the album can be punishing it doesn’t go into the realm of boredom or masochism. You can bang your head until your neck breaks listening to these tracks and the variety in riffs keeps the songs from going stale.
The opener on the album, “Crown of Electrodes” may be my least favorite song on the record. Here, the issues I have with the vocals are the most egregious such as the screamed laughing towards the end of the track and the, for lack of a better word, noises that are going on in the beginning. After this, things improve remarkably. I dig the old school kind of Black Sabbath-esque guitar riff that comes in midway on “OmegaMangler”. The next three tracks, “9-13”, “Toadcrucifier”, and “Destroyer” are heavy as hell but have catchy moments in all of the chaos. The epic 9 minute closer to the album, “Moreland St. Hammervortex” (gotta love these song titles by the way) is an awesome journey where things slow to a crawl before ascending into madness until everything eventually crackles out into the ether.
Iron Monkey has impressed me on this comeback record. For returning fans, based on what I’ve read, it might be a good idea to pretend you’re listening to a different band entirely, but I had very few issues with whatever changes did occur. The band kicked my ass, made me feel pissed off, and now I need to ice my neck. Plus, that is one sick album cover. What more could you want from some apocalyptic metal?