Album Review: Iron Monkey – 9-13

By Ryan Falla

Being groovy may not be the first instinct upon extreme sludge musicians, yet with Iron Monkey’s new record ‘9-13’, a heavy focus is placed upon groove elements; a tone that gives immediate distinction to Iron Monkey. ‘9-13’ follows the steps of bands like Pantera and places an emphasis on grooving out before they apply their brutality. Given that groove is the core of good music, Iron Monkey is already off to a great start on this album, their first in nearly two decades.

‘9-13’ is very much an extreme sludge record, there’s no denying that, yet this band subverts the norms of sludge and pushes a high tempo groove throughout the record. From the first track ‘Crown of Electrodes’, all the way to the final track, ‘Moreland St. Hammervortex’, there is zero let-up in intensity. ‘9-13’ is a curious record, despite it maintaining all the elements of sludge they aren’t presenting themselves this way. The heavy grooves, constant up-tempo, driving vocals; it’s all a near anti-thesis of sludge.

Iron Monkey doesn’t rely on crushing, doom-centric riffage; this isn’t criticism of the natural sludge/stoner elements many bands use given that I am a diehard fan of this genre, only an exploration of how ‘9-13’ takes opposing elements and brings it all together to create a fresh beast. There are so many tracks I could gush over within this record; seriously, pop on the track ‘OmegaMangler’ and become awash in its overpowering groove backed by some Pantera-level riffage and drum work.

The title track ‘9-13’ is a phenomenal piece of groove/sludge work, and as much as I hate having to throw out the Pantera descriptor, it isn’t without merit. What Iron Monkey does with 9-13 is all to reminiscent of the ultimate work that is Cowboys From Hell. A powerful, yet unchanging genre meeting the ingenuity of a band looking to breathe a fresh breath into their music.

Now, there are tracks on this record that take the classic approach to sludge, such as the track ‘The Rope’; a riff that swings slowly to and fro like the sway of the man hung by the noose. However, one of my favorite tracks is the positively ridiculous intro to ‘Moreland St. Hammervortex’. The song’s intro is easily comparable to the jaw-grind from snorting a line of the purest cocaine and letting the euphoria drive your senses into a pleasurable insanity. Despite the cocaine-fueled introduction, this is easily the more traditionally written sludge track on the record. It’s a near 10-minute track of repetitive, yet affable structuring that mixes in up-tempo builds and extended riff drops that fulfill the classic checkmarks of sludge metal. It’s a fantastic way to end the record, almost as if the band strips as much as they can to show you their most basic musical instincts.

All in all, despite being out of the scene for twenty years, all due to the unfortunate passing of their original singer J.P Morrow; now Iron Monkey stands ready to engage in the next level of musical dominance thanks to the original efforts of Morrow that helped the band evolve from an idea to a reality. Now we get to enjoy this evolved reality that is ‘9-13’ in full swing; twenty years of pent up emotions have permeated this record in the best way possible. Unless you’re super deep into the UK doom scene from the ’90s, you probably haven’t heard much from Iron Monkey. After this record though? You won’t be able to keep yourself from listening to Iron Monkey and ‘9-13’.

Rating: 9/10

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Record Label: Relapse
Release Date: October 20th 2017

Track Listing:
1. Crown of Electrodes (4:21)
2. OmegaMangler (4:49)
3. 9-13 (5:37)
4. Toadcrucifier – R.I.P.PER (5:31)
5. Destroyer (4:16)
6. Mortarhex (3:31)
7. The Rope (4:47)
8. Doomsday Impulse Multiplier (5:11)
9. Moreland St. Hammervortex (9:47)

Total Duration: 47:50

Iron Monkey links: facebook