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Iron Monkey - Spleen & Goad review

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Band: Iron Monkey
Album: Spleen & Goad
Style: Sludge metal
Release date: April 2024

01. Misanthropizer
02. Concrete Shock
03. C.S.P.
04. Off Switch
05. Rat Flag
06. Lead Transfusion
07. Exlexed
08. The Gurges
09. O. D. Rose

As one of the older apes in the jungle, Iron Monkey return to lay down the law on how nasty and groovy and monke sludge metal should be.

Despite some notorious periods of absence, Britain's Iron Monkey have used their brief time in the spotlight well. Formed back in 1994 when pioneers like Eyehategod and Acid Bath were roaming the streets in Louisiana, Iron Monkey were doing their part at the other side of the great lake in Nottingham. Their self-titled debut and Our Problem are easily some of the most underappreciated slabs of fuck-off sludge metal you can hear from the 90s. To me, they always sounded like a more unhinged, primitive, slower version of Eyehategod, but with less hardcore influences and more straight-up Black Sabbath worship thrown into the equation. The result was a mid-paced variety of sludge, with some spurs of rocking speed here and there, but generally carrying a consistently slow, crushing sound. What really stood out for me, though, were the really disgusting vocals by mental singer Johnny Morrow. That man had a vile tone on his high-pitched screams, which added a great counterweight to the morbid riffs. Sadly the band was no more at the dawn of the new millennium after disbanding 5 years after their inception; even sadder was the fact that Johnny Morrow died tragically in 2002 due to a medical condition.

The resurrection of Iron Monkey in 2017 with their comeback album 9 - 13 saw the band going from a 5-piece to a power trio involving founding members Jim Rushby and Steve Watson, with Jim handling the vocals. His vocals are less maniacal and high-pitched than the late Morrow; that being said, they are pretty sick in their own right, as they are much more aggressive. Riff-wise, it was like the band had never left, and the modern production values did wonders in elevating the music even further as more intense build-ups and faster passages came along.

So Iron Monkey returned after seven years since their comeback album. In a way, Spleen & Goad seems like another reboot on their swampy sludge, which I’m more than happy to promote, especially nowadays, when other veterans, like the aforementioned Eyehategod, have failed in delivering new albums of high calibre that properly match their classic records. The production on Spleen & Goad is impeccable for the genre; in less than a minute I was hooked on the tone of this album, as “Misanthropizer” starts with a piercing feedback, followed by a gargantuan riff and pounding drums that carry the subtlety of a shotgun blast. All this and more is amplified by a production that allows for proper loudness but doesn’t stop the music from sounding raw and filthy.

At 53 minutes, this is their longest album to date. Some of the slower tracks could have been a little bit shorter, but this is only a minor issue once the listener focuses on how brutal and groovy those riffs are on tracks like “Lead Transfusion” and “Concrete Shock”. Spleen & Goad is generally slower than its predecessors, but it makes up for it by having catchier passages, and when those fast sections do hit (see “Rat Flag” and "Exlexed"), oh damn do they hit.

Spleen & Goad will stand among the strongest sludge metal albums of the year. I’m also confident that it will lead to newcomers discovering Iron Monkey and their back catalogue. When new, more flashy styles of sludge metal come and go, it is important to keep track of those tunes that tickle that primal, ooga booga, part of the mind.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Production: 9

Written on 13.04.2024 by A lazy reviewer but he is so cute you'd forgive him for it.

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