The term “cult band” is usually relegated for lesser known or underappreciated bands. With Iron Monkey, the term more likely is to denote their likelihood of spawning an actual cult. I’m not sure of their record sales but their reputation is revered. And their two albums are in regular rotation in on my turntable. Ain’t one aspect under appreciated. Iron Monkey cultivated disgusting and abhorrent sounds and attitude while still manifesting a groove. On par with Eyehategod, this UK trio repelled listener’s from 1994 until 1999. A band that channeled repulsion, seclusion, and nihilism could never be expected to function for too long. And then their singer passed in 2002.
Now it is 2017. Somehow, Satan’s ugliest children have found themselves spewing further music. Relapse Records released their third full length, 9-13. It stands with the classic two, self-titled, 1996, on Union Mill and Our Problem, 1998, on Earache. Staggeringly savage, riffs and growls perpetuate every insecurity in the listener. The members are listed simply and unimpressively as J – Vocals/Guitar, B – Drums, and S – Bass; recalling John Paul Morrow as “JPM – Rest In Noise”. 9-13 is a stellar tribute to JPM’s legacy. Jim Rushby and Steve Watson both were in prior iterations with others, Rushby in all, while drummer, Brigga (ex-Chaos UK), is new. But the sound is as killer here. There is no gap in synchronicity.
Rushby’s vocals are beyond growls, not low in tone like a guttural Death Metal band, but beyond growl in terms of delivery and audibility. Take “Toadcrucifier”. Rushby snarls like a spastic pitbull, reacting to a violation with a fevered unraveling. His vocal approach comes from a genuine disassociation with human kind. The feral evocation is the thread throughout 9-13. The songwriting is tops, production balancing the ugly with the execution. “Destroyer” driving riffs of the first section coupled with the fast charge of the middle relishes in deep focus and nasty tones. But we hear all instruments pushing and pushing.
There is a palpable rejuvenation between Rushby and Watson in these despondent harvests. While certainly skilled musicians, they keep it simple. And that’s where the honesty is allowed to shine. It is why I think hardcore fans can latch onto Iron Monkey’s qualities. They repugnant emotions of isolationism and self-destruction, the disgust with the world, the visceral trigger is worth more than any guitar solo or ethereal orchestration. Give me the sweaty clamor of basking in plodding snare hits and feedback of “The Rope” any day. Not saying it is all feeling, they sit and write songs. But they know when to ride a riff, a groove, an emotion – and simply let vocals spatter wretched noise. “Doomsday Impulse Multiplier” swoons and smashes as its twisted riffs deliver on its catastrophic tile promises.
9-13 is constructed of eight 4-5 minute romps with a 10 minute closer. The beginning of the album, “Crown of Electrodes”, “Omegamangler”, and the title track, “9-13” are all bruisers. So, let’s address the obvious. Detractors will say – shit, have said, on a youtube comment – “no Greaves, no Morrow, no Iron Monkey”. And I am a purist with some bands – believing certain bands should have just taken a new name (Sepultura, Misfits, and a thousand hardcore bands). Missing Greaves is a loss, in a nostalgic way. But Brigga kills it on 9-13. Justin Greaves, whose talents saw him in many bands; including, Borknagar live, Crippled Black Phoenix (still does), The Varukers (which is a precise parallel to Chaos UK) and most notably, Electric Wizard for three years. This perched Greaves to record on EW’s gnarliest (not best or most classic, but noisiest/ugliest), We Live. Steve Watson is back here, and played on IM’s first self-titled LP. The detraction may be in comparison that Iron Monkey recorded as a five piece for their two albums and the EP. Here they perform as a trio. I don’t hear an outcry for missing Doug Dalziel. He was on all three records. And hell, if you’re lamenting an absent drummer – you should really being lamenting his partner, the bassist. Watson moving over certainly delivers the essence of Iron Monkey. Rushby, however, has always been in the band, every iteration. As far as vocals, while missing Morrow is a punch to the gut, Rushby does his job. It doesn’t have that same black metal, goblin raspy slither; but Rushby has the same spirit, and certainly the toxic tenacity in his exasperated excoriating of mankind. And with all the years slinging axe for the band, he knows the approach that works and exceeds his duties. Shoes filled. Would Morrow have given the thumbs up? Only the band members know, not some sentimental fan.
RIYL: Fudge Tunnel, Grief, Church of Misery, Eyehategod. Weedeater/Bongzilla, Buzzoven, Unsane