Iron Witch - A Harrowed Dawn
In a year where UK sludge has been taken up a notch by Slabdragger, Conjurer, Mastiff and Battalions, Iron Witch needed to let something pretty special out of the traps to maintain their ever growing reputation as a genre heavyweight. Six years of demo, EP and split releases have more than whetted the appetite – culminating in last year’s excellent The First Four Beers compilation – but do they have something extra in the tank for their debut album release? The answer is most definitely yes.
A Harrowed Dawn is quite simply essential. From the opening atmospheric moments of Beauty And Rot it is apparent that Iron Witch have grown into their own skin and are now a confident, maturing beast. Rick Owen and Will Adams remain utterly solid at the back, creating churning rhythms over which Mark Hughes and Chris Fane layer big slabs of riff. This time round the band has Dave Mould’s remorseless vocals to put a new intensity on what is already a compellingly brutal cake.
Iron Witch do not sound like Eyehategod anymore. The feedback-drenching of yore is gone. This is particularly well evidenced in Machinery of Violence, which rumbles along at mid-pace injecting sustained riffs and lead lines into its sonic melange before upping the tempo midway through: Marching its way towards its simply massive finale. On tracks like this and Under The Pyre you can actually feel how much this mighty band has evolved over the last 18 months, from a new sense of dynamics to a mastery of songwriting and the sheer bravado with which they trample each song to its natural conclusion. The songs benefit from this direct and immaculately performed approach, making them sound unique. Iron Witch are becoming leaders in their field. There is no copycatting here.
The album is brought to and end by Solitude and Decay which is in turn both the closest number to “old Iron Witch” and also another reminder of how far they have come. The song, like the whole album, is bristling and intelligent and dynamic, and rewards repeated listens as new charms keep revealing themselves. The sound is wide and heavy, mixed to a T. A Harrowed Dawn sets the band up nicely for live work and touring, where these six songs are likely to really come into their own.
An essential purchase.
Words: Andrew Field
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