I first saw Liverpool’s Iron Witch around five years ago, supporting the once-mighty Kylesa and looking ready, with a little nervousness, to take on the globe. Cue the obligatory hard knocks and line-up changes…debut album A Harrowed Dawn (Secret Law Records) has seemed an age in the making but boy, has it been worth the wait.
Opening track ‘Beauty and Rot’ comes out slower, nastier and heavier than anything the band has done previously: a Country-style twang viciously dwarfed by a crawling, fuzzed riff. New vocalist Dave Mould is a man-mountain with a coruscating roar to match and, when the Crowbar-style feisty groove kicks in, it’s turned sour by Mould’s monstrous treatment and a twin-riff assault. That serrated furrow is further accentuated through the ferocious rampage of ‘Salvation Through Nothing’, a brutalisation of the senses which is so oppressive that the accompanying bounce seems miraculous.
‘Machinery of Violence’ sees the sound return to a portentous slither, a mournful lead dictated by the colossal pounding of scouse Viking Will Adams. His frenetic pummel as the pace increases is impossible to fathom, an apocalyptic thunder crashing in around him. Similarly, pit favourite ‘Under the Pyre’ commences with a doleful trudge before rising to a wondrous, rhythmic explosion, leaving the listener confounded as to how such a lumbering behemoth can be so bloody catchy.
It’s with the final two tracks that the band gets really serious. ‘Belly Full of Rats’ is as hideous as the title suggests: Mould’s scour the claws of the rodents scraping away at the gut lining; the slow, tumultuous rumble full of nefarious intent. The sad, sparse intro of closer ‘Solitude and Decay’, meanwhile, steadily transforms into a pulsating epic, the track travelling through various subterranean levels of recoiling malevolence to a coda filled with loneliness, pain and abject bitterness.
NOLA, Southern… ”It’s dead!”, scream the detractors, myself often included: a dull, bloated carcass, lying flaccid in a corner. Tell that to these guys. With a fistful of ire, Iron Witch may just have saved a scene: they have certainly delivered another great release to the UK’s Low-end canon.