OK hands up who remembers Hellhound records? To refresh your memories they existed from the late 80’s to the mid 90’s and, after initially releasing a slew of hardcore albums, became the premier doom label of the era releasing classics such as Saint Vitus “V” and The Obsessed “Lunar Womb”. They paved the way for labels like Rise Above and now the latest contenders Doomanoid Records.
Everything about this debut EP from Yorkshire’s Iron Void simply reeks of the good old Hellhound days so much so that this could almost be a long lost release from the label. From the band’s name to the cover shot of a snow covered graveyard to the band photo on the inner sleeve make this a fantastic trip back in time to doom’s halcyon period. Iron Void don’t mess around with sub genres or pretentious epithets…this is straight up, heavy as fuck doom in the vein of Saint Vitus, Pentagram, The Obsessed, Penance, Count Raven…etc.
The four tracks here run the gamut from the crawling epic to the ass kicking rock out (I don’t believe there is anything in the doom rule book that says everything has to be played at a snail’s pace!!!). Opening track “Spell of Ruin” is a lesson in monolithic riffing and mournful melody. Sealey’s vocals posess a raw Wino meets Paul Di’Anno quality that is rich in melody yet earthy enough to prevent things becoming overly slick in the way that bands such as Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus would often fall prey. “Final Resting Place” ups the tempo and the aggression with its stuttering main riff that gives way to a surprisingly catchy chorus…pop doom anyone. Track three, “Conflict Inside” is the sprawling traditional epic where clean guitars and vocals give way to walls of distortion that would sink the Titanic!!! Finally we get to “Demon Drink” where the Void step on the gas again and prove their song writing chops with another memorable melody that comes across as a lost jam tape between Saint Vitus and Pentagram.
There are countless bands out there who are embracing the doom but few possess the innate song writing suss that these guys do and that should be enough to drag them by the scruff of the neck and lift them above the pack. I do have a couple of minor niggles…and they are minor when compared to the quality of the tunes. Firstly the production, everything is in its place and the guitars in particular sound lovely and rich (the lead playing I should add is impressive and tasteful) but where’s the snare? In this style of music the snare should power through with authority but here it sounds a tad like someone twatting a cardboard box in the next room. Secondly, although these guys can wield a quality tune like an Olympic swordsman, their lyrics leave an awful lot to be desired coming across as second rate 6th form rips from the doom book of clichés. Arguably the lyrics don’t always matter as the music must do the talking and in this case they’re certainly not a deal breaker but I would like to hear a little more thought injected if they’re going to make the effort to write such quality riffs and melodies to back them up.
Doomanoid are a young label and I applaud anyone who, in these financially delicate times and with the digital revolution sweeping physical music media to one side, will put their money where their mouths are and support bands by still pushing the CD format. Obviously there are financial restraints on a label such as this and it does show…the cover printing is not of the highest quality and the disc appears to be a CD-R duplicate as opposed to the higher quality glass master. These things don’t matter so much when getting the music out there but if you’re competing with any number of other releases not to mention free downloads (and it won’t take long before someone sticks this up somewhere to nab for nothing) it is an idea to keep a shaper eye on the quality of the releases.
Minor gripes aside this is a fine debut release from a band that we could be seeing more of pretty damn quickly.
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall