Ironwood - Storm Over Sea
Self Release
Folk/Black/Death Metal
8 songs (55:33)
Release year: 2010
Reviewed by Jaime
Australia is perhaps better known for producing metal bands on the extreme side of the scale like The Berzerker and The Amenta which makes Ironwood stand out that bit more. I mean, a folk metal band from Australia? It's not something you'd really think about. Following on from their fantastic 2009 album Fire.Water.Ash is Storm Over Sea, a concept album that probably doesn't need explained.

Firstly there is the small intro track Hail Sign. Lots of atmospherics and sea noises going on to set the scene. It's nice, though the bass sounds odd with the effects they have running over it. About half way through it switches to acoustic guitars and a more clean sound, but the little piano stabs before the lead guitars kick in sound obscenely twee. Spoken intro aside, Infinte Sea has a kind of black metal feel too it, kind of as it has lots of tremolo and blast beats, but at the same time uses clean vocals a lot and you can hear the bass. You can really hear the bass, it's a tad high in the mix for my liking really. Of course, just to mess with you they switch to using acoustic guitars for the tremolo picking and growling vocals before a lead type section then a full blown acoustic part. It's a bit disjointed really. There's usually a little soundscape part inbetween each section that breaks up the flow. The clean vocals in the first half seem a tad odd, but in the acoustic section and latter half of the song they're fantastic. It's almost Opeth like, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that the first 5 minute or so were from a different band or song as everything seems to sound far clearer and it flows far easier. Well, except for the outro, that kinda ruins it by going back to where they started. Arctic Tern is another 3 minute track (the band seem to alternate between songs that are about 3 minutes long and other that are about 11 minutes long) that is an all acoustic affair. These sort of songs definitely seem like the band's strongpoint as it's very powerful sounding, possibly due to how uncluttered it sounds, or would sound if they balanced the bloody sound effects out a bit more.

Speaking about 11 minute tracks, next up is Weather The Storm. It starts off with a fairly laid back acoustic groove and loud sound effects before the tremolo picking kicks in. It's less messy than Infinite Sea however which is a bit of a boon and at least shows that they can do the black metal side of things very well. One of the things I haven't mentioned yet is the bands use of cello, which you can hear being used to interesting effect from about 2 and a half minutes in to supply some effects that sound like a ship creaking under the blastbeats. It's subtle but very nicely done. A little solo later and the band move into laid back mode again. Nothing wrong with it, but it's a little long winded by the end which brings in the acoustic guitars to get my hopes back up again. And it fulfils its promise with another very moving section, and the vocal performance here is fantastic. Some may find it a little poppy, but to the music behind it it's very harrowing and emotive. Share The Burden makes sure the band keeps up their folk quota with another little acoustic and some nice use of canon in the vocals that makes it feel like a slightly upmarket singalong. It's followed up by Will To Live which is basically a Death song. I'm not kidding. Listen to say... Scavenger of Human Sorrow then listen to this, it has a very similar vibe and sound to it, right down to the vocals. It's fucking impressive though. It barely fits in with the rest of the album's sound, perhaps due to it being a bit more stripped back, but it allows you to hear how technical the band can get. I think that by the time the band got to A Bond To Sever they must've been fed up with all the sound effects. It makes a fair difference though, giving everything else room. This is a bit of a oddity though as the vocals make it sound like a black metal Irish jig to begin with before going all prog again with another massive lead section that'd probably put a few bands that're rooted in that genre to shame before switching tracks and calming down. They go from the aforementioned Death comparisons to something like The Moody Blues that gradually morphs into Yes. It's pretty proggy is what I'm trying to say, but it works. I could probably make comments about how it sounds like two different songs (as it does) but the two parts don't sound as tacked on as they do in Infinite Sea.

The last track is neither 3 minutes or 11 minutes long, instead hitting the 7 minute. Those tricky bastards. When it's All Over has shades of Share The Burden around as it initially sounds like something that'd be sung round a campfire until the piano takes over from the guitar giving the song a far gloomier mood that leads up to a guitar solo that'd make Agalloch proud. It's a stunning track that never feels over bearing like the other, longer tracks can do and amalgamates most of the best parts of the album into one final push.

Storm Over Sea is a very good album but not without flaws. The sound effects are, at times, far too loud in the mix and some of the wind samples sound a tad distorted which would probably have been down to the way they were recorded. There are one or two issues I have with the mixing like the bass being a bit too prominent which does mask some of the other instruments which is a general production no no. Some of the longer songs could've been broken into two and no one would've known, namely Infinite Sea and at times the clean vocals don't work all that well, again see Infinite Sea's first half. The acoustic tracks and sections are phenomonal. If the band did a purely acoustic album it'd probably be album of the year material, but that some what downplays the likes of Will To Live and the excellent Chuck worship it contains. The album is available for free download or to buy at the band's website here so you've no excuse not to check it out.
Killing Songs :
Arctic Tern, Share The Burden, Will To Live, A Bond To Sever, When It's All Over
Jaime quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Ironwood that we have reviewed:
Ironwood - Ironwood reviewed by Kayla and quoted no quote
0 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are 0 replies to this review. Last one on Mon Jan 17, 2011 8:51 pm
View and Post comments