Loincloth – Iron Balls of Steel

Iron Balls of Steel
Southern Lord
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.
Peter Clegg

Iron Balls of Steel’ is released on Monday 16th January, 2012. Pre-order it here

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