We get a bit of protest, leering psychedelia, and plenty of existential dread creeping up the clenched neck of humanity on the verge as West Yorkshire, England-based doom metal trio Iron Void wheel through this finest fourth full-length album. All matters on the vexed mind of modern man pour from ’em in the best tradition as they arrive upon ‘IV‘ having never sounded sharper, warmer and loosened from the burden of time as a point of peak reflection radiates in action. Though existing fandom and the already attuned will find the classic doom metal soul the band are yet known for intact throughout this record there’ll be no denying the sense of movement in their veins, an oeuvre expanded as the trio rides through these nine alternately swinging, crushing and surreal songs.

A natural response to the inspirational uptick of the British doom metal spheres throughout the 1990’s, Iron Void technically formed back in 1998 but the original quartet dissolved after just a couple of years. It wouldn’t be ’til 2008 when founder, bassist and vocalist Jonathan Seale revived the band with former So Mortal Be co-member Steve Wilson, they’ve kept it going with various drummers since. I’d briefly covered some of the history of the band up ’til their fourth album (‘Excalibur‘, 2018) when I’d reviewed it (favorably) at the time but the gist of their gig shouldn’t been too complicated to unravel. These folks focus on traditional doom metal influenced by U.K. and Maryland standouts, again, from the 90’s. As a fan I’d always placed their first few records somewhere in between early Solstice and Pale Divine b/w a distant shade of Pentagram in most of their work implied. Their fourth LP leaned into epic heavy metal just enough to leave an interesting dent for my taste, so, there’d been some considerable anticipation for what they’d been up to since. ‘IV‘ steadies the ship in some sense, bringing some of the stonier rumble of their first few records back into gear as they tell a more general story of today rather than fabled yesterdays.

The big change up front as we chuck ourselves into Iron Void Mk. IV is the addition of Scott Naylor on drums, a fellowe best known for his work in black and death metal metal groups thus far. His work locks into a different groove, a determined swing which features far less pensive pacing compared to past releases which I’d argue suits the more personal existential subject matter of ‘IV‘ particularly well, almost leaning towards a mid-90’s Cathedral feeling on rustled-up “Pandora’s Box” and the downhill jammed riffs of “Slave One”. With a solid handle upon double-bass kick work and full use of the kit I’d found Naylor‘s work a notable presence up front, it seems like they’d taken the time to jam on these songs and make sure and we hear the trio gel more effortlessly than ever on this recording as a result. We’ve got a proper test for this dynamic up front as we ride into the jogging, nigh anthemic Sabbath groove of “Grave Dance” to kick things off, setting a swinging launch for the record’s initial trajectory while speaking to the dread of a changed world before ’em.

“Living on the Earth” is classic Iron Void, a representative song at the very least which likewise benefits from a hard-hitting drum sound set prominent yet supportive in the mix so that Seale‘s vocals are able to carry the tune alongside the mean buzz of the guitar tone. I’d found the bass guitar tone sidelined bit for my own taste but the way these songs are written its place is in step with the guitars and growling beneath. The first four or so pieces that make up the bulk of Side A lend an inspired, bustling character to ‘IV‘ much in the same way earlier The Obsessed shook it out a bit while presenting an increasingly jaded soul. This all comes to a head as “Blind Dead” tips the nose of their ride downward for a heavier, slower end to the first half. It’d end up being one of a few favorite songs on the album upon return listens and its placement next to clear standout “She” helps bring us to the thick of it, the strongest moments to be had on this relatively filler free doom metal album.

They haunt my reality. — “She” ends up being a moment outside of time for Iron Void, an affecting and dramatic rouse which reads as an almost NWOBHM folk ballad stripped to its core impact that eventually gives way to a few hulking doom metal riffs. It’ll be the right stuff if you’re looking for a ‘New Dark Age‘ kinda moment and a bit more flourish on some of the basslines. Without question one of the absolute best songs these folks have written and an essential piece for establishing more than a passing glance of the album in the preview stages. From there I’d felt like ‘IV‘ begins to come alive beyond the pushing rock beats of its first half, giving us a few deeper swinging rhythms before the eerie of “Last Rites” shores up a bit of tension as it comes to an end. The dynamic of the full listen here is beyond professional, at least in the sense that the running order provides variety in a fully conscious stream of songcraft. Things get a bit weird as the endtimes darken the edges of our vision but the whole of Side B enriches the greater takeaway, or, the effect of a full listen.

Most of what we’ve heard from Iron Void on past records breaches these subjects, heavy rocking threads and 80’s doom metal vantage points yet they come together here with a sense of purpose as spirited as ‘Excalibur‘ yet as tonally broad-reaching as some of their first few records. This time around they’re more capable than ever and this makes for a warm, inviting yet ultimately proper doomed listening experience which turns the ear to dark fantasy and the eye to reality at once, making for a wholly entertaining stride towards our inevitable doom. If you listen to doom metal with high standards for traditional songcraft and its many shades in flux no doubt you’ll appreciate the classic yet personalized stature of ‘IV‘ off the bat. I’d warmed up to this album immediately thanks to a handful of immediate and unforgettable moments served and, despite it being entirely different from what they’d done on the previous release, it all reads as a natural addition to their already impressive discography. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Shadow Kingdom Records
RELEASE DATE:January 27th, 2023

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