Iron Monkey, it’s fair to say never got the respect or adulation that should rightly have been theirs. Exploding from Nottingham, England in the mid-90’s with their self-titled E.P. and the classic Our Problem (Earache), the band was on a trajectory straight to the top of the filth-smeared grime pile that they were climbing. Exuding a sound reminiscent of Black Sabbath thrown into a swamp with Eyehategod, this was music so hate-filled and nasty it demanded your attention before the band split in 1999. Original vocalist tragically Johnny Morrow passed away in 2002, but fifteen years on guitarist Jim Rushby has resurrected the Monkey as a three-piece ready to unleash new album 9-13 (Relapse).
There is a punkier almost urgent feel to some of the songs, and this not for the faint of heart as Iron Monkey have not lost any of their potency or rage. Take ‘Toadcrucifier’ for instance. This song is a full-on uptempo rhythmic rager, and following straight after this is ‘Destroyer’ which keeps up the pace. New drummer Scott Briggs has had a lot of influence on some of the songwriting and Iron Monkey sound like a much more well-rounded band as a result. They have more weapons in their arsenal to blast at aural cavities.
‘Omegamangler’ is just so fucking good. It builds off of a typically brilliant sludgy riff and never lets you go, it’s the one song that really stands out for me, in particular the middle section with a riff built to snap your neck into little pieces. The ending as well sounds like Down baked in an aga until crust is fit to crumble, such is the density of the riff.
If there is one issue, it is with the vocals, and this could all be down to personal preference but Rushby just sounds like he is over-reaching with some of the higher pitched parts. Now, don’t get me wrong when he is going low down and dirty he sounds fucking awesome, but the performance does drag some songs down a bit like ‘The Rope’, which just really goes nowhere and is relying heavily on the vocals to propel it. Indeed, split this album in half and you have five songs that really tick all the right boxes. There are, however, just too many weak songs after the halfway point to really measure this up alongside the classic Iron Monkey releases. At points it feels like they’re going through the motions and dragging their heels creatively.
Niggles and issues aside, though, this a very good entry into the Iron Monkey discography but just doesn’t live up to the enduring legacy of one the most important underground bands Britain has had. There is certainly enough for older and newer fans to sink their teeth into. 9-13 isn’t a bad album, it just doesn’t blow you away. The live setting is where this will truly stand or fall through and if Iron Monkey “bring it” then get onboard or get out the fucking way.