Review Summary: Crushing riffs and a vocalist that sounds like an ape from hell make this slab of sludge a must have for any metalhead.
Forming in 1994, in Nottingham, England, Iron Monkey is a band well known in sludge circles, but relatively unknown in the general metal community. During their short lived existence they released two full length albums and a variety of splits and EPs before breaking up in 1999, citing personal and industry problems. Sadly, in 2002 vocalist and founding member Johnny Morrow died of a heart attack, brought on by a chronic kidney disorder – thus dashing any lingering hopes of a reunion. Our Problem
is the latter and the better of the two albums they released; recently Earache has re-released this album with their debut as a 2-CD pack. It is an absolute must have.
This album makes its commencement with headache-inducing feedback, followed by a simple drum beat and a stoner riff so catchy that it would leave the likes of Electric Wizard green with envy. For a split second, during the guitar groove and before the vocals, one wonders what the singer will sound like. After all, the amount of great bands reduced to nothing by poor vocals is too many. However, before one is given the opportunity to contemplate the matter further, Johnny Morrow begins to belch out near inaudible lyrics, which could only be described as the tortured cries of a mad ape from hell. True to the band's name, he sounds like an iron monkey. While vocalists like Neil Fallon (Clutch
) and John Garcia (Kyuss
) would fit right at home with Monkey's unique brand of sludge, vocalist Johnny Morrow opts for a delivery that is reminiscent of the nihilistic growls of Michael Williams (Eyehategod
) and the raspy snarls of Muleboy (Bongzilla
The guitar tone and work on this album is what veterans of sludge metal have come to expect from the genre: heavy distortion, featuring huge Sabbath-esque riffs, followed by short bursts of speed and aggression. The deceptively simple drums, laid down by none other than Justin Greaves, are more than adequate for the grooves Monkey employs. His drumming matches the rest of the instruments, leading the group on with an inconspicuous elegance. What separates Iron Monkey from the rest of the crowd, aside from Morrow's vocals, is that they create some of the most dissonant and abrasive sludge while keeping it tasteful. Some groups like Eyehategod are content to sacrifice melody and musical integrity to achieve their level of tortured beauty – Monkey manages said discordance without sacrificing a thing.
However, that's not to say that this particular album is without fault. What ultimately prevents it from receiving a perfect score is the repetitious nature of the work, and that some of the tracks seem to drag on for too long. A prime example of this is the near 20 minute long "9 Joint Spiritual Whip", which although decent, should have been shortened. Another minor point of contention is that nearly every single track starts out with ear-piercing feedback, which after repeated listens, causes one to wonder if irrevocable hearing damage has been caused. That said, one could fairly argue that the track length and feedback only aid the group's punk rock aesthetic – this work bleeds sincerity. Overall, this is a must have for any fan of sludge, no matter how casual. With sludge's recent popularity, this album is more relevant than ever, showing a new generation of sludge aficionados how it's done. Stand-out tracks like "Bad Year" and "Boss Keloid" are best listened to full blast, driving down a lone road. Windows down, of course.