Review Summary: Iron Thrones walk a thin line, if only to diversify their sound.
A well-kept secret in 2008, Visions of Light
was one of these self-produced, pay-what-you-feel-like-it deals: under advertised, underappreciated, and for Minnesota’s Iron Thrones, a little unrewarding. But hey, that’s only looking at the album from a financial point of view. How the hell did that progressive death metal beast sound? Big surprise, but yeah, you guessed it, like Opeth – well, minus the abundant acoustic interludes (okay, so there were a couple in there) and those clean, sweetly sung melodic vocals. You could basically just think of it like Akerfeldt’s winning formula with all the harsh knobs twisted to their limits, the overall tempo sped up a little, and all without the ridiculous amounts of hype surrounding its release. Sounds ideal
for many metalheads, right?
Pretty much, pretty much – except Iron Thrones had a little bit of trouble forming an identity for themselves, much less have an album that remained memorable for listeners after having listened. For all its intricacies, well-played instrumentals, and reverent homage to the band’s influences, Visions of Light
played straight through its length like one song, over and over. It was more a problem of a lack of diversification in the band’s aesthetic when you got down to it; progressive death metal like Iron Thrones' brand needs a little more umph
and, uh, to put it lightly, stuff going on
in its playing field. Bands like this are often put into a tough situation, as short of kissing up to the big O
, even more so in Iron Thrones’ case, it’s really hard to make something interesting, or more accurately, relevant in this subgenre of metal.
Somehow Iron Thrones and have done just that with their new EP, The Wretched Sun
, though: diversified their sound without humping Akerfeldt more than they already were to begin with. Take for instance first song “Like A Month To Flame”: Singer Adam Clemans and crew now have a larger ear for melody this time out – but wait, hold on before you shout your two-word phrases of rage; the melody is incorporated into the music as a hall monitor to make sure the band stay on track, pick a memorable theme or phrase, and then build their metal upon it. This opening song is the best example of this, but throughout the EP, Iron Thrones generally keep Clemans augmented around chorus-like lines to give their songs clearer direction, even during the varied course of prog-epic “I Once Had the Crown”. The melodies are not enough to distract, though, so don’t think this another In Flames, or even In Mourning, for that matter, but they're seemingly just a safety precaution to make sure the band don't lose you (again).
A quick spin through The Wretched Sun
’s six tracks and you’ll find a few more slowed-down sections of the music when compared to Iron Thrones’ debut, Visions of Light
. This draws more glances to Opeth, obviously, but the band have some dignity about how they how include these sections into the songs, particularly on “Against The Grain” and the aforementioned twelve-minute “I Once Had the Crown”. Instead of resorting to acoustics, Steven Henningsgard keeps his guitar on a bluesy, clean level, and rather than have these picked notes run in sync with the band’s heavier moments, they typically only act as a lead-in; in many cases, it’s as if a chord change takes place between the soft to harder sections of the music. A big deal? No, but it’s important to at least note the differences between Iron Thrones and Opeth, especially when this band are obviously trying to diversify their sound. There are even some clean vocals here and there on The Wretched Sun
(“Against The Grain”), but these moments are brief, and Clemans sounds nothing like Akerfeldt in this realm of tongue.
Even so, all things considered, you can probably guess that Iron Thrones are clearly walking a thin line between making something that’s legitimate in progressive death metal and that of just jumping on the leader of the pack’s train. It’s a line that Norway’s She Said Destroy walk on as well, and recently Ikuinen Kaamos, too. But you can’t really fault these bands all that much, though, as Opeth cover a pretty large, daunting territory as far as this music goes; however, on the other hand, when listening to these bands' music you can't help but feel like you're getting something that's less than the best
, so to speak. As they continue on in their career, Iron Thrones will have a difficult time with keeping up with at least the bare minimum with each release; inevitably, each write-up for their material will contain Opeth comparisons, and like the other bands listed, Iron Thrones are very likely to be kept under the bigger band's shadow for much of their career. The Wretched Sun
is the closest that the band can get to a sound that doesn't blatantly rip-off the genre leader, and as such, it's probably best that Iron Thrones continue to make music in the future that's very much in line with this EP.