War Iron | Interview
War Iron have been rattling the foundations of the local underground, punishing ear-drums and flattening venues up and down the country for the past six years or so. Their recorded output, however has been scarce with only the odd track or two sneaking out of their bunker to wet the appetites of worshippers of low-down filth and keep the embers glowing.
This year the lads got their act together and released a particularly gnarly album; two tracks of punishment that melds the psychedelic darkness of classic Electric Wizard with the ear-splitting harshness of Eyehategod. I gave larynx-shredder extraordinaire, Baggy, a bell to get the low down. It went something like this…
Hails Baggy, lets start at the beginning and take it from there.
Ok. Background. Well, me and Marty (the drummer) used to be in a stoner rock/sludge type band The Naut. The band split up around 5 years ago, the rest of the guys went on to form Slomatics. Myself and Marty recruited Dave on bass and Mike on bass and set about writing some very heavy music that we enjoyed. Was never really had the intention that any one else would actually dig it though or that we would necessicarily record it or gig it live. The core of the band has stayed the same since the start. We now have Ross on second bass duties and things are going well.
Your debut album, The Faceless Sea, has just been released. It is a monolithic lump of blunt force doom, reminiscent in many ways of a more harsh Electric Wizard- particularly their opus Come My Fanatics. Are you satisfied with how the album turned out?
To be honest it took so long between starting to record it and finishing it that was difficult at points to know if it was any use or not. We had been hearing various incomplete recordings and mixes over such a long period with so many delays! Think generally it’s not too bad, but would have to do things differently next time with regards to recording; it took way too long from start to finish with large periods of inactivity along the way; every possible excuse not to get it finished!!
You haven’t included lyrics on the inlay. Bastards! What can you tell us about the themes on the album? With the song titles, ‘Inch Cape’ and ‘Face the Sea’, it seems like we are wading deep into concept territory. Am I on the right track?
Funny you mention that. We did actually discuss doing three separate concept albums at one stage, but hey talk is cheap! The two songs have the obvious connection of the sea and are linked together with a mid section so you get one solid piece of music. So I guess it’s a concept album of sorts.
Lyrically, well the first song the lyrics are basically those from a poem by Robert Southey entitled Inch Cape. Face the sea, well that’s to do with my fascination with Easter Island and the people, culture, statues and the eventual demise of those people and their way of life. We might include lyrics somewhere along the way.
It can’t be easy to capture the sound of two dirty bass guitars drenched in scummy distortion without it all turning to a muddy mess. You have managed to maintain a sense of space and clarity in the recording without losing any of the punch and heaviness. How was the recording process for you?
The recording process was actually fairly straightforward in hindsight, although kind of driven my necessity also. We recorded the two basses in two different studios, not because it was the cool thing to do, more because the first studio was demolished shortly after we had finished but before we realised we needed to do a bit more work. So the second take was recorded in a different studio by a different engineer and miked up in a totally different way.
Think that gave us more depth than we had anticipated, but it turned out to be a good thing. Full stacks were miked up in both instances with multiple mikes, in front and behind the cabs and one in a corridor outside if I remember correctly! There was absolutely no D.I. to the desk nonsense!
Inch Cape features a female spoken word section that sounds ghostly, bringing to mind some poor soul destined to haunt the lonely old ocean, possibly offering solace or possibly luring the unwary to their watery grave.
For this section we decided to add to the atmosphere of the only clean section of the song with its relatively tranquil wave lapping sounds by adding a female spoken voice. The words are taken directly from a verse from the poem Inch Cape also.
The album deserves a vinyl release and seems designed perfectly for that format.
Actually there is talk of this currently. We are in negotiations about the format and how best to fit this on two sides of a slab of wax. Originally I was horrified at the thought that someone might get some sort of brief relief from listening to it for even a few seconds while they turned it over to play the other side! Think I’m coming round to the idea though.
You released the album yourselves. Surely you could have cajoled a label in to doing the honours. Why go it alone?
Honestly it seemed like the easiest option. We put it out under the Infected Wound banner which Devilmakesthree and the likes have been released under. Plus we reckoned we needed something recorded before we could realistically approach a label to put a recording out.
Your sound is utterly brutal and full in its crusty low-end heaviness but it also sounds like it could easily accommodate the addition of extra instrumentation or maybe even a noise element. Is this something you would ever consider experimenting with or are you content to crush skulls with absolute brute- force?
With us everything is open to consideration. At one stage there was talk of a dub remix of one of the tracks and a drone version of the other. As to if we would ever actually do that, or even have the time to do it remains to be seen. We did want to try and use the audio samples live also, but to date the technology seems to have beaten us. I wouldn’t rule out additional percussion in the future also.
The artwork for the album has a combination of tentacles, the silhouettes of the heads at Easter Island and what looks like a human hand reaching up out of the crashing waves. What is it all about?
The monoliths on Easter Island are a very powerful image and set the scene for the cover art. The sea with its fantisiful creatures represents the bleakness of the oceans and what may or may not lie beneath. The hand? Well that’s just a case of slipping a standard doom-claw into the art, isn’t it?
The name War Iron is fantastic. It paints images of Dark-Age violence, primitive warfare, old piles of helmets, swords and battle-axes piled high and ready for their grim work. Who came up with it and what does it represent to you?
Well actually me and Marty came up with it from a short list of a load of other names we had thought up. (Most of the others had the word ‘goat’ in them). I was convinced that ‘War Iron’ was the terminology used for scrap iron reclaimed and used for machines of war in particular during the First and Second World Wars. The image seemed to fit the music.
However it seems there’s absolutely no evidence for that being factually correct. But that’s what it’s supposed to mean. It’s also in tribute to two of the bands that inspired us to be both heavy and guttural and who are no longer in existence. WARHORSE and IRON MONKEY.
You seem to have a bit of a revolving-door scenario going on with the second bass position. You have been through three or four at this stage and have only been active since 2005. Are you too damn heavy for these wimps or what?
Ahhhh yes the various second bass players. Well let’s just say there are various reasons why they are no longer in the band, but we are still on good terms with them all.
You have only managed to release two recordings in 6 years of existence. Is less more? Can we expect another three or four year gap between now and the next release or do you have anything new up your sleeve?
I really hope not! I will personally go insane of we get as many delays next time! We have enough unrecorded stuff for about another two albums. The plan is to clear out some of the older stuff and also record some new songs. We are ready with three to be recorded soon. Ideally these will be to go on split records with other bands. Then we will set about the next full length.
There is a thriving doom scene in Ireland that has become stronger and stronger over the past few years. What is it about this island that draws people to this style of metal? Is there a shared mentality or just a coincidence that so many grotty doom bands have popped up? What is it about low-down sludge/ doom that excites you and inspires you to continue?
You know when you have had a long day in work sometimes the last thing you want to do is head to the rehearsal room, tired, knackered and totally fed up! But then, in a jam a riff is busted out or a particularly filthy hateful note is played that shakes the whole room, brings a grim to my face and makes me realise why I’m there.
Might sound cliché, but it’s all about the music and the heaviness, and there’s a definite dose of irony and more that a hint of humour when we are in the practice room that makes it all seem worthwhile. Sure as hell can’t be doing it for the money! As for the other bands of a similar genre in Ireland, I suspect it’s just a love of that type of metal and nothing more. More of it I say.
If you could do a split with any band who would it be and why?
Well we have not actually sorted anything yet, but guess a split with Slomatics would be cool as we all used to basically be in one band. We also talked about a 4 way split with all the ex bass players who all seem to be simultaneously (and separately) working on drone side projects. A Split with Dwell in Sun would be cool as I think we both get each other’s music. Though we may have another project with them which isn’t so much a split, more of an amalgamation.
I have witnessed you live on several occasions over the years and the experience is never less than pummelling. What would the ideal War Iron live set-up look like?
If it had anything to do with me it would have full visuals for each song projected on a massive screen and the band up to their waist in dry ice!
Cheers for your time. Any final thoughts?
Thanks for taking the time. And thanks for all those who bought merch, came to gigs and had a bit of banter with us along the way. Promise it won’t be as long till the next recording, and hopefully we will play a few more live shows this year than we did last year. Cheers.