Single Malt EP
Since the halcyon days of Iron Monkey, the UK hasn’t really had a sludge band who’s punched their way to prominence in the same way Monkey did. The US continues to provide wave after wave of kickass sludge bands – Eyehategod and Sourvein are still going strong, Buzzov*en are back, and newer bands like Weedeater and Thou are cranking out quality weed and hate fuelled bile. This isn’t to say the UK lacks a healthy smattering of such bands – that it does – but it’s very much a part of the underground, free of mainstream influence and continuing to manifest its nasty, swampy ways.
Now whether Iron Witch can make that leap is another matter – I’m not sure the UK rock scene’s current musical statement will permit it – but here be a band that possesses that same booze-soaked sound that ferments in so much classic American sludge, and indeed, they it with aplomb. I’m not suggesting for a minute that no other UK sludge band can provide this, and there’s plenty I could go on and recommend. But ‘Single Malt’ is a sure sign that we can do this sludge thing pretty damn well too, and make it look easy at the same time.
Hailing from Liverpool, home of The Beatles, SSS, Cilla Black and more, Iron Witch tick all the sludge boxes – epic feedback, gravelly snarl, beautiful low bass tone, thunderous drums – and their Liverpool via Louisiana approach won’t cry originality to you. But like the familiar taste of Jim Beam, the classic sludge sound is distilled and captured perfectly across these five tracks, and tastes might fine with every shot. Opener ‘A .45 To Pay The Rent’ is a game of two halves – a great grooving couple of riffs at first, followed by a sledgehammer to the head with a great slower, pounding groove. The title-track features an equally groovy, certainly torturous riff that finishes with some caustic vocals right at the end alongside a punishing chug, like a heavyweight boxing champion layering five-punch combos getting harder and harder with each advance – the finishing flurry being hook after haymaker.
‘Booze Blues’ wails to begin with as the feedback from the guitars drone into the speaker, before the bass intro ushers in a thick slow, almost hypnotic groove, no less intense but highly addictive; while ’Jailhouse’ possesses a somewhat upbeat feel about the faster riff, if not for vocalist Chris’s throaty wretch, which is just the cherry on the cake with this song. And then there’s the closer, ‘The Cruelty of Mankind’. Opening with more feedback, the Witch provide another slow riff to batter you into the corner, before speeding up into a faster groove, designed to shake the senses, before delivering the final blow with another crushing slowdown which will further dirge upon the ears.
As stated in our Worthy of Your Time feature on them, the Witch wear their influences loud and proud and what it lacks in originality is more than made up for in the sheer quality of the performance here. Those riffs and grooves made have more than a hint of Sabbathian about them, maybe even a Black Flag vibe, and vocally it’s not too dissimilar to Mike XI Williams in its whiskey-soaked snarl. But that’s more a compliment that anything detrimental, and ‘Single Malt’ certainly packs a punch. Without doubt, this is a huge statement of intent here.