So, this is one of those releases. You know the kind I mean. When you’ve been a big fan of a band, and then, from out of nowhere, you realise that the band are coming back after a long time. What is the feeling? Is it excitement? Is it fear? Will the album be any good? Will it even be Iron Monkey? Despite buying their first six track album from Rise Above back in the day, and buying every single thing subsequently, (including the post-Monkey Armour of God/3rd Stone split CD), I never did get to see Iron Monkey live. That being said, and from trusted friends that I know did, Johnny Morrow was one of those special front men. Certainly, his deranged screaming lyrics made a huge impression on me when I heard them (“I been eatin’ Old Man Rum / Holy men fused to smack”), so how could Iron Monkey possibly return without him?
In short: like this. Featuring original band members Jim Rushby and Steve Watson (with Rushby taking up the microphone in addition to guitar duties, Watson doubling up on guitar and bass) and “Brigga” from hardcore crew Chaos U.K. as drummer. Any lingering doubts that I held were effectively ripped apart within the first few seconds of the blistering opener, “Crown of Electrodes”. As completely unhinged and violent as they ever were, 9-13 is the sound of the band as cryptic and insane as they ever were. The trademark blues-inspired sludge-swagger of the guitars are ferociously effective. “Omega Mangler” comes on like a drunken bully, the strutting rhythm colliding with the strangled, gargling vocals. Title track “9-13” erupts in a trademark-feedback burst, before the clattering drums propel this into a deep, deep groove. When that particular guitar sound appears at around the two minute mark, I knew that not only was Iron Monkey back, but it was my Iron Monkey: the band that could produce hypnotic, doom-gone-wrong bad-vibes. Joyous.
“Toadcrucifier” stutters into life from feedback-hell, (if you didn’t already know, Iron Monkey do not care for your aural comfort), while Rushby bellows lyrics such as “My vitriol no soul all hollow turn to stone”. Given the properly mad sound of his voice on this rager, I’m inclined to believe that he’s channelling something. “Destroyer” shows an almost comical disinterest for rock conventions, with a drum rhythm that’s equal parts hardcore punk and intense, elastic bursts that hint at grindcore, before settling back into a mesmerising pounding. “Mortarhex” with the charming opening lines of “It’s biting in / combatant grin / abortive glee / annul the living” has that psychedelia meets extreme violence vibe that you remember, but with a tighter grip on the instrumentation. “The Rope” is essentially one riff played until the limits of patience, but with the overall effect of making the listener feel like they’ve, to borrow a phrase, “spent a couple of fortnights in a bad balloon”.
“Doomsday Impulse Multiplier” is the perfect accompaniment to the current trend for morons trying to start a world war, with a huge Sabbath meets prescription medication feel to it, the Iommian riffing given a new burst of life when wedged under that rumbling bass and the warlike drumming. Closer “Moreland St.Hammervortex” (which, let’s be honest, is the greatest song title in the entire history of the humble song title) is a nine minutes plus sludge epic. The song ends as if the world itself is giving up the ghost, and let’s be honest, if it was, wouldn’t this be the ideal album to play?
If there is a perfect album for the Zeitgeist, 9-13 would be it. Iron Monkey are back, and they have produced what is, in all honesty, a stunning come back. I never thought it could, or would, be this good. Long live Iron Monkey.
I think I will leave the last words to the band themselves, as they say on the Relapse website…
“IRON MONKEY do not care about your scene, bands or opinions… ELECTROCUTION, DOOM, OMEGA OMEGA OMEGA”
(9/10 Chris Davison)