Ironwood - _:Fire:Water:Ash:_
(Independent, 2009)
by: Quentin Kalis (7 out of 10)
Ironwood burst onto the folk / black metal scene with their self-titled 2007 EP, which I considered to be -- and still do -- one of the strongest independent releases. Two of their major strengths were the impressive lyrics, almost exclusively poems from Down Under heathen poet Ruarik Grimmisson and the combination of acoustic passages with an acerbic guitar tone. Both have disappeared.

For whatever reason, Grimmisson is not involved with this release. All the lyrics are now written by Ironwood, and even though they are better than the average folk metal entity, they cannot compare to a wordsmith such as Grimmisson. The songs from the EP have been re-recorded, but it seems that he has withdrawn permission as they have been renamed and have almost all-new lyrics.

They presumably were re-recorded as they now have access to improved production and sound, and that their musical skills have presumably improved in the two years since the EP. This would seem like a positive development, except that the abrasive nature of the guitar has been lost in favour of a fuller, "pagan" tone. This would normally be a positive development, but since Ironwood were one of the few to get the mix between the folk and black parts right, this is actually a negative, and the delicious contrast between acoustic and black has been lost. Even though the sound is fuller, the music feels flatter.

In essence, Ironwood remains the same. They are still a pagan orientated band, one that seems more serious than the pseudo-nationalistic rantings of their Northern compatriots and thus more honest. Nor do they indulge in lazy beer hall melodies, but provide something more contemplative. Yet a few minor changes have had a butterfly effect and this album lacks that indefinable "X Factor" (to borrow a cliché from a certain reality show) that the first EP possessed in abundance.


(article published 15/4/2009)

5/1/2007 Q Kalis 9 Ironwood - Ironwood
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