A certain majority of the artists that previously formed the wave that would resurrect the lanky corpse of doom metal in the mid 2000’s sleeps yet again. Defeated by tribulation, disinterest, the greater call of business, life and aging bones. The last five years feature no shortage of freshly derived mutations as a generation of staggering weaklings fill the void; A severe fall from a high place has been felt as pillars of doom crumble around us. There is only lament in the eyes of the fully engaged doom hounds, as we nakedly clutch at the substance-devoid hell that is life with our ancient ones dormant or frazzled. Should a new order enter formation or is the old guard putting in dues for the future?Among the several hundred still-great doom outfits kicking around Iron Void have been most consistently electrifying. Their third full-length ‘Excalibur’ is no less, and perhaps even more of an epic parade through truly radiant classic doom metal style that avoids any pronounced redundancy of their previous records.
As the title suggests the third album from these West Yorkshire, England based fellows focuses on the fabled legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The record fittingly opens with Nicol Williamson‘s characterization of Merlin from the film Excalibur (1981) as he casts a ‘charm of making’ in the forging of the fabled sword. I don’t profess any great knowledge of the legend outside of watching The Sword in the Stone (1963) a thousand times as a child and spending hundreds of dollars playing Knights of the Round (1991) in arcades as a slightly older child. Though I have great interest in high fantasy the riffs that help spin Iron Void‘s yarn are the main draw in pulling me back for repeat listening. In fact having received and fully writing a review for this album five months ago, then sitting on my thoughts as the release date shifted, I was granted a rare gift of seemingly unlimited time and consideration for ‘Excalibur’.
The riffs, then. How are they? In the past Iron Void‘s traditional doom metal fused with epic heavy metal motif had increased in value with each release and ‘Excalibur’ is no different. Their main influences still to spread the love between the pensive gloom of early Solstice, hits of Pentagram‘s 80’s sledging, and a yolk driven by Lord Vicar-esque oxen. This third album particularly invokes the spirit of Solstice with a resigned, almost destitute tone to the shared vocal duties of Jon Seale (Desolate Pathway) and Steve Wilson (ex-So Mortal Be) and it fits the telling of legendary tales well enough. If you are new the the party and show up hoping that ‘V’ in Void indicates a stoney Saint Vitus nod, steer those expectations towards their earlier work. The riffs are there but the pacing and style will be a huge shock to folks expecting the early Pale Divine style of previous albums.
‘Excalibur’ is somber, regal, and deadly serious about embodying the soul of the tale being told. Not only will this be in stark contrast to the free-wheeling and slightly stoned doom fuzz of their two previous full-lengths but, they’re actually quite a bit better at this sort of thing. “Dragon’s Breath” hits upon the feeling of Lord Vicar‘s ‘Fear No Pain’ but with less of the sludge tones and a performance that takes healthily from Solstice‘s ‘New Dark Age’. In referencing two of my favorite doom metal records of all time I am more than excited about this different stylistic focus on ‘Excalibur’. The songwriting is ace overall though I think the Arthurian legend might’ve called for a different spin at this point. Traditional themes for traditional sounds garner no great complaint from me but also no extraordinary praise. Where I do ding a few points is in the lack of interesting breaks in pacing; Much of Iron Void‘s latest marches along to the same beat and they haven’t demanded anything extraordinary from new drummer Richard Maw (Peacemaker). The performances serve the mood and theme of the piece rather than build upon any previous work, so it is pointless to fault the paradigm shift.
The crossover of my own fandom of epic heavy/doom metal and the type of stoner metal informed traditional doom that Iron Void arrived with on their first two albums does go a long way to inform the ease of transition between expectations of style and what should be seen as a striking change of pace for the project. As such, I’d recommend ‘Excalibur’ to folks geared towards epic doom metal first and foremost. Although those with a taste for the earthen sort of traditional heavy metal informed epic doom a la Solstice, Cromlech, and DoomSword that generally stops short of pure Candlemass-isms (or power metal) should see ‘Excalibur’ as prime target. Beyond that specific fandom Iron Void‘s third album is a solid mix of traditional doom and heavy metal that is reasonably accessible without losing sight of the riff. The album certainly has a meaningful progression from the forging of Excalibur (“Dragon’s Breath”) to Arthur’s rest in Avalon (“Avalon”) so any previews out of order might miss out on the drama of the story within. I would at least suggest the duo of “The Coming of a King” and “Lancelot of the Lake” as a major peak of the album and “A Dream to Some, A Nightmare to Others” as a great example of balance between classic heavy metal and the influence of generations-removed Sabbath-influenced doom metal. Highly recommended.
Speed of horse we came, like a shadow cast. 4.0/5.0
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