Over their short but significant existence Iron Monkey released some of the most vile, nihilistic sludge metal in history. Combining Sabbath-sourced doom with grim crustpunk and lacing it with the venomous vocals of Johnny Morrow, who spat cryptic, Burroughsian gutter-poetry, Iron Monkey were Britain’s answer to Eyehategod. A cult band in every sense, they played cider-stained backrooms to handfuls of punters and even as their notoriety spread, they didn’t reap the rewards from their 1996 self-titled EP and 1998’s Our Problem LP prior to their 1999 split.
The tragic passing of Johnny in 2002 put an end to the possibility of a reunion… or so everyone thought. Rather unexpectedly, we now find ourselves staring down the barrel of a new Iron Monkey record, to the disgust of some and the intrigue of others. Written by founding members Jim Rushby (guitars, vocals) and Steve Watson (bass) with Chaos UK drummer Brigg replacing Justin Greaves – whose absence speaks volumes – this incarnation have set themselves an unenviable task of trying to compete with a cherished discography.
The motivations behind creating an Iron Monkey album without essential figures who made the band a raw, vital force is unclear. Nevertheless, 9-13 does nothing to damage the band’s legacy. It’s a solid sludge LP, heavy on the roiling riffs synonymous with their debut. One glaring issue, however, is that Jim’s vocals are grating when he tries too hard to mimic Johnny’s animalistic ire, particularly so on weaker songs such as Destroyer and The Rope. Another problem is that the songwriting isn’t as sharp or memorable overall as you’d hope for. Had it been released under a different moniker, criticism would only be aimed at the filler-damaged latter half of 9-13, which lacks the intensity of the earlier tracks. For an album released under the Iron Monkey banner, though, this trio has to be held to a higher standard. Sadly, even though the mechanics are there – the power groove evident on OmegaMangler, the filthpunk barrage direct on Toadcrucifier - R.I.P.PER – the tortured spirit is absent from the band, and that’s what made them truly inimitable.