Irön Fist - Catharsis

Irön Fist Catharsis cover
Irön Fist
Independent Release
Pray-tell, are y’all familiar with the latest exclusive member of the elite “Iron” prefixed club? If not, give a warm, Hell burnt welcome to Lecce/Apulia, Italy’s Irön Fist, which, following a couple of 2014 demos, has rounded the wintry bend with a bloody pitchfork as well as independent full-length debut, “Catharsis”, belatedly released on March 1st after years of internal delays – it was actually recorded at the end of 2015 – and other bureaucratic tomfoolery.
Although the twin-guitar quintet musically adheres to unmistakable traditional heavy metal vibes, its nine widely varied tracks spread over slightly less than an hour follow an utterly unpredictable, twisting and winding doom template; in other words, aside from the straight-forward and sharply honed anti-ecclesiastical haranguer, “Preacher of Desperate” (which, riff and tempo wise, astoundingly sounds like Traitor’s Gate’s “Devil Takes the High Road” and Blade Runner’s “Too Far, Too Late”), they mercurially ebb and flow with a demoniacal grace, from the 9,5 minute “Caedite Eos”, with its maddening thrash‘n’roll drums and cymbal rides, gloomy acoustic guitar progression and sordid hoof clomps, to the debilitating and spiralling, as well as darkly chanted, equally drawn-out “Scapegoat (Damned in Hell)”. “The Black Legend”, which lugubriously commences with some B-Horror stylized and Bela Lugosi evoking munching, and the much more accessible and swift, albeit pedantically titled, “Hunting the Witches” also top seven minutes. In fact, the only track below three is the sinister and black forested instrumental “Malleus Maleficarum”. In spite of these unorthodox, perhaps even turgid running times, each song possesses enough hooks and ambient flair, however morose, to keep the listener interested and on their toes. Granted, the mid-tempo, at times triplet based, guitar riffs are what you’d call “by the numbers” (i.e nothing extraordinary or ground-breaking) but, as indicated, the main riff to “Preacher of Desperate” takes the expedient chromatic magic of said NWOBHM bands to a higher plane whilst the swarthy, no frills production compellingly imbues it with a churning sense of raw foreboding and nostalgia.
The vocalist’s currish and scruffy mid-range as well as snappish yet subtly laconic delivery reminds me a lot of Nightmare’s good old Burning Axe Ripper, who’s been quirkily and gregariously taking Medellin, Columbia by storm this past decade, especially on “Morias Encomium”, which uncannily feels lifted from the Latinos’ “High Speed Venom”, as well as “Hunting the Witches”, likely “Catharsis”’ top original highlight considering “Preacher of Desperate” could, at worst, be interpreted as surreptitiously plagiarized from its British forebears.
Essentially, the album’s strong points are the ax men’s poignantly evil and extensive lead flourishes, notably throughout “Caedite Eos”, towards the end of “Preacher of Desperate” and even more prominently on “Hunting for Witches”, which also benefits from an Underworld evoking introductory downpour, along with a distinctively doom-y rhythm foundation comprised of an infectiously plugging bass line and maddeningly tipsy – as well as chair busticating – cymbal ride. Bland as it is, the Matthew Hopkins inspired chorus greatly enhances this “fist-some” classic. Aside from the energetic and intense, In Solitude-like solo sections, the battery stands out as much, if not more, than the rhythm guitar playing. Personally, I prefer the songs’ faster and more linear instances yet were it not for the all-encompassing, disjointed and broken-up elaborations, they wouldn’t have as much impact or “oomph”. It’s weird – “Catharsis” plays out as an unnerving dream (I wanted to say “nightmare” but felt that would come across as too glib!), you know isn’t real but struggle to awaken from. The fact it closes, however appropriately, with the elegiac, piano driven and organ piped “Requiem” only serves to heighten this bizarre sensation. While the individual songs give off an impression of chaos and disarray, the album as a whole is pretty congruent, bookended as it is (along with “Requiem”) by a windswept, bass heavy and ominously incremental/instrumental opener in “Une Notte Sul Montecalvo” (if anything, it beats trawling Monte Cassino!).
Admittedly, I was a little disappointed by Irön Fist’s “Catharsis” as its radically ambiguous cover art and pseudo-Gothic band font initially stirred me into a right frenzy of gleeful anticipation. By all means, feel free to give this a leisurely spin but don’t expect miracles. While it’s certainly nothing to frown at, it’s nothing to fervently gloss over either. If you’re down with froutube’s “NWOTHM” you’ll likely find it mildly appealing.