Review – War Iron: Precession of the Equinoxes

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  • Bio: n/a
  • Label: Self-release
  • Release Date: April 28th 2015
  • Genre: Doom Metal, Sludge Metal
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

Back in 2005, the United Kingdom band The Naut had called it a day. However, from those ashes came a new behemoth all together. Formed by drummer Martin Harvey and vocalist Andrew Bagwell, both former members of that prior group, War Iron was born that very year. They were soon joined by bassist Ross Duffy (Fuckhammer) and Dave McCallum (Devilmakesthree, Terminus), the latter originally meant to handle guitars but kept as bassist as “it was decided it [the band] just wasn’t heavy enough” [according to a quote on Metal-Archives]. Since then, the twin-bass four-piece has unleashed a handful of recordings starting with 2008’s Angelgrinder demo. The band’s debut full-length, The Faceless Sea, dropped in 2010, followed by their second, The Fifth and Final Sun, and a split with Headless Kross in 2012. A year later there was the One Track Promo demo and Of Prophecy and Alchemy EP as well. For 2015, however, the band find themselves independently releasing their third album, Precession of the Equinoxes. But is the recording itself something worth checking out, or does it simply fail to be remotely engaging?

While the initial line-up was a twin-bass concept, Precession of the Equinoxes finds that method dropped, introducing Ross as the band’s guitarist this time around. Unfortunately, this greatly alters the sound, even dynamics of the band’s output compared to all of the previous outings. While still in the Sludge/Doom Metal field, this entry seems to embrace some subtle Black Metal elements as well, though this could all be a coincidence, or perhaps me stretching to try to find something worth while in this effort. The additional guitar chords aren’t necessarily that sharp, but their presence along with the raspy, indecipherable vocal approach and ritualistic rhythms and grooves leaves a lingering cold, early second wave Black Metal presence in the mix. However, that newly added instrument also comes through fairly flat despite the deeper tuning, leaving the bass guitar and somewhat distant drums to fill the gaps, which they don’t quite accomplish without cranking the volume and bass levels as high as you can possibly stand it, and even then it still lacks any bite.

Due to that main drastic change, War Iron has essentially given up what made them a fairly unique entry into the fray, leaving this new outing to sound incredibly mediocre at best, hurt even further from the flat sounds of the stringed instruments and vocals. There’s very little present that makes the slow moving Precession engaging, nor do the segments meant to become burdening ever feel like they are. The only positive note is that the band can muster up a depressing atmosphere at will, such as during the first guitar solo approaching two minutes into “Bludgeon Lord”. The slow pace finds some simpler held notes that are catchy enough to get your head bobbing along from time to time, but even that doesn’t save you from the generally predictable structuring of the song. Even some of the shifts just sound the same unless the chords throw a little more technicality your way, such as about four minutes in or the eerie hooks a minutes and a half later that lead to a crushing explosion that fails to pay off entirely by immediately reverting back to that crawling pace with only the slightest hint of additional enthusiasm in the drums, and a generally louder audio level.

Sadly, there’s little improvement the further in you get either. “Precession of the Equinoxes” does move at a quicker pace sometimes, though a good majority still utilizes held notes that, even at their slowest, can seem like there’s a little more life to them. There’s even some variety in the heavily echoed vocals as you approach the six minute mark, building tension to the incredibly uninteresting, barren slam that occurs a little past six minutes in. Think some of the slower riffs on “God of Emptiness” by Morbid Angel, but stripped of anything of interest, leaving you an incredibly robotic bit that could have been dropped entirely and still make the song any better overall. “From Napalm Altar” doesn’t end up quite that typical thankfully, but, again, you can almost predict when a change will happen and what direction the band will move in, not to mention the sudden change about two-and-a-half minutes in feels recycled from the six minute mark on the title track with a slam that is only a little more powerful due to how dominant (a term being used generously here) the twang of the bass guitar is on this one as a whole. The shift towards Yob inspired riffs and a little more crushing environment is commendable, leaving some of the passages moderately more engaging if you’re even awake or alert enough to experience them by this point. If not, well, you’re still missing out on much.

War IronFinally there’s “Summon Demon Scream the Abyss”, which, to an extent, is the only worthwhile track of this release. The introduction is a slow burn that seems to go on for quite a while, though only a minute and ten seconds passes before the typical trudging funeral start with additional ritualistic harmonizations in the background finally starts up. While there’s little to really get excited over outside those background vocals, the shorter length just finds the pacing to be better overall, not leaving you with something that seems to just drag on like the other near ten minute offerings of this album. There’s also a hint of enthusiasm in the bass and guitar, making it feel like the band was finally enjoying themselves for the first time on this one.

With War Iron having dropped the twin-bass guitar concept, the four-piece have only solidified themselves as yet another band in the growing Doom/Sludge Metal style despite being one of the early names in the field. It’s a shame, really, as their first two full-length albums were really impressive. Precession of the Equinoxes is just one generic Doom Metal riff after another, the whole album just sounds flat, and each song makes the band appear to be attempting to become the next Forest of Equilibrium-era Cathedral, only to pull back on the idea and never going through with it. Unfortunately, it just seems like everything that could work against the band did as much damage to this album as it possibly could, leaving behind just over thirty-seven minute offering that is just dull and uninspiring. I don’t think there was a single spin through the entire effort where it didn’t cause me to start nodding off, if not pass out entirely. Maybe if the band were to have someone else master it, then maybe we might find a better recording under the smooth, lacklustre exterior, but, chances are good we won’t see that happen, instead leaving fans and interested new listeners this venture that is miles from matching their first two hard-hitting albums.

War IronDigital review copy of this release provided by War Iron via Dewar PR.