Iron Balls of Steel
2012 is still young and already we’ve received in our inbox the first new album of the year, from latest Southern Lord signees Loincloth. With a title such as ‘Iron Balls of Steel’, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume what lies within is the chest-beating, fist-pounding true heavy metal made famous by the likes of Manowar and …erm… Manowar! However, that’s not strictly true; despite featuring two members of legendary death/doom metal act Confessor (in guitarist Cary Rowells and drummer Steve Shelton), Loincloth’s approach mixes beefy heavy metal riffs into a progressive/technical stew. And sadly, stew is quite appropriate – cos personally, I found it’s a little difficult to pick out anything that stands out about ‘Iron Balls of Steel’.
Don’t get me wrong, riff wise, there’s plenty of them, every song supplying a beefy chug, brimming with time changes, tempo changes, stop start rhythms, etc. It just feels completely lacking in direction. The lack of vocals is one thing – it shouldn’t necessarily matter in this day and age whether a metal band has a vocalist or not. But a lot of this album’s songs don’t even clock in above two minutes, leading to a primarily ‘interlude’ feeling to some of the tracks; where they do spread their legs a little, there’s nothing particularly interesting going on, everything melding into a mush. At times, they could actually do with a singer. More appropriate, they could do with a few more ideas. Other instrumental bands, for example, Serious Beak (whom we recently reviewed) thrive on keeping the listener on their toes, even injecting a bit of atmosphere. You don’t bemoan their lack of a singer as their train is constantly rolling. Loincloth’s instru-metal is cold and only occasionally splutters into life, doing little else besides; a critical downfall.
Progressive metal has been given plenty of technical sheen over the last few years and while I don’t doubt Loincloth’s passion for their music, really I don’t see how it compares to the more natural, often younger bands of today who pull this off with more flair and supreme skill, whether you like them or not. For a band containing former members of Confessor, I’m sure they won’t care for a review like this, and I don’t particularly enjoy savaging albums; but the fact is, there’s not really much good I can say about this album. And yes, admittedly I bought the press garb, and wound up disappointed.
‘Iron Balls of Steel’ is released on Monday 16th January, 2012. Pre-order it here