I’ve always had a soft spot for Iron Hearse. These Wiltshire lads have always, in the past, managed to churn out some rather fine examples of doom meets biker rock and roll with a canny knack for a killer riff and hooks the size of Abu Hamza’s hands!!! In the luck stakes, however, they’re a band prone to a good kicking at the hand of fate yet they always come back fighting. Iron Hearse in the last few years have had some difficulty retaining a drummer and have now suffered the closure of their label Psychedoomelic as an extra blow…but now they’re back with former Battlewitch drummer Kev Sibley behind the kit and their own label, Shake Mountain, to take control of their own destiny.
So, “Get In The Hearse” has been over half a decade in the making so we should be expecting something absolutely killer right? I really wish from the bottom of my heart I could say this was the case. Musically, the Hearse guys are still on form. Grant Powell has a fantastic ability to hit home with a succession of great riffs that tumble one after the over evoking bands such as Orange Goblin and, perhaps more overtly, The Obsessed. Each one of these songs is built around a great riff, killer progressions and dynamic structure. The Hearse are a doom band that operate on the fringes of traditional rock and metal and avoid the trap of playing slow for the sake of heaviness. In fact, most of these compositions are pretty upbeat and rocking with an emphasis on strong choruses all backed up by Powell’s throaty, blues wail that brings to mind a cleaner, fresher, less road worn Wino. Lyrically things do frequently become a tad clumsy and often pretty cringe worthy plumbing some of metal’s worst clichés…but at the same time this does have a certain charm in itself as Iron Hearse understand that metal is inherently ludicrous and should be about escapism as opposed to being given to Bono-esque attempts to change the world. That said, Powell does, on occasion, sound as though he is struggling to fit all the lyrics into the songs. This is a minor gripe though…I never really pay a great deal of attention to the lyrics anyway.
There is a downside to this album however and it is a pretty big sticking point. Five years on and with the band having built up momentum and lost it a number of times this album should have been the ultimate that Iron Hearse could have made it with every effort spent to make it the best that it could be. They have the songs for certain but it also needs to be presented well and this is where it falls down very badly. I could forgive the amateurish packaging…there is a charm in trying to replicate an old vinyl album on CD even though the end result looks pretty cheap…in fact it looks as though the band have copied these and knocked up the covers themselves although I know they didn’t. No, I could forgive that as many amazing albums have suffered from crap packaging (Flotsam And Jetsam’s “Doomsday For The Deceiver anyone?) but what is hard to overlook is the quality of the recording. I appreciate that we live in difficult times and for many musicians the funding of a recording will come second to family commitments and as such the Hearse could only afford one day to record this. The problem is, it shows! Unfortunately this album has come out sounding like a dodgy demo from the 80’s as opposed to a fully fledged album by a band wanting to take on the world. The guitars have been relegated to a fuzzy mush, the bass overpowers in a bid to compensate for the lack of depth in the guitars and the drums sound dull and lifeless with an intrusive bass drum and frequently absent snare. The vocals, however, sound fine and Powell puts in a strong performance…as do all the musicians in fact. I realise that Iron Hearse have suffered a great deal of frustration and want to make a bid to reclaim their place in the UK underground ASAP but I can’t help feeling they should have waited until they were able to afford a recording that would do these songs the justice they deserve…or at least found someone who could capture a better sound in such a short amount of time.
Iron Hearse have had many years in which to craft a fine album…which they have done in terms of the songs on show here, yet it seems they’ve allowed themselves to fall at the final hurdle with the actual recording. It’s a shame but hopefully people will be able to look through this and still appreciate the inherent quality of the band so they can begin to ascend the mountain once again and make up for lost time…maybe they’ll sell enough copies of this to produce “Get In The Hearse: The Remixes”…now that would be worth a listen.
Label: Shake Mountain
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall