Monday, May 5, 2008

Pig Iron - The Paths of Glory

Somewhere in England there's a Harley bar I've never heard of.

Forget the fairy tale images of English castles and knights and fair maidens, in this beer-soaked swill house, brutally ugly, long-haired, bearded guys with names like "Geezer," and "Patch," guzzle down axle-grease colored ale by the bucketful. These guys don't just ride Harley's, they eat their spare parts for breakfast. The women in this joint are all tattooed, pierced black widows who wouldn't think twice about chopping off her man's head after he's finished pleasuring her if he's too limp-dicked to satisfy her again. The music playing is big, and loud, with mastodon sized riffs, and just mean enough to keep the teetotalers at bay.

And in this mythical sweltering hell-hole, Pig Iron is the house band.

Now don't take any of that opening paragraph as an insult, this is rock and roll, baby, and Pig Iron bring it on in spades. Belching a blues-drenched, Sabbath stained version of swaggering southern metal and boogie, Pig Iron explode off their new CD announcing to the world in all their glorious fury that they're here and there will be no prisoners.

". . . And the Bodies Fall," starts off this conquering stampede, with the sound of waves crashing against the shore and a forlorn battle horn sounding in the background, the staccato riff builds in intensity underneath, decrying the stuttering footsteps of two armies in full battalion marching towards each other on the battlefield. The pace builds to a roaring fury as the battlements approach, launching into a frenzied war zone of limb and flesh, the chorus singing out, "and the bodies fall/and the bodies fall." What separates this storming slab of sabbath metal from all the viking-horned battle metal pretenders is that this is an anti-war song, as revealed by the quote hiding just beneath the lyrics, "Patriots always talk of dying for their country but never of killing for their country." Makes you think.

The metal roars back with "Battle Malady," a thunderous, pulsing Sabbath riff handed down from the God of metal himself. Here, the glory of war is stripped away as a lone soldier is left dying on a battlefield. "Son of a Bitch,"blasts out next, dropping the battle down to the more personal. Over a devastating doom-filled riff, shifting in time with the intensity of the lyric, some poor bloke is getting the work over, having pissed off the wrong dude. I tell you, in this biker bar, you gotta be tough. The cowboy's all wear steel-toed cowboy boots and they ain't afraid to use 'em.

Then, just when you think you've got the band pegged as a damn fine, doom-sabbath metal band, "Lord, Kill the Pain," leaks out, lone harmonica wailing over acoustic guitar in one plaintive moan of pain. God damn, this is the blues, baby, and a whole 'nother side of the band emerges, crawling out of the muck of a Mississippi swamp. "Lord, kill the pain/at least just for today/she's packed her bags and left/she's left and gone away," Johnny Ogle's vocal anguish is perfect. It's been a hell of a long time since a band's come along blending the blues with fierce metal this strongly without it sounding forced or contrived, but listening to these guys, guitars building to a firestorm of metal, then dropping back down for that wailing harmonica, there's no doubt they've been there. Dave Pattenden shows that he can handle the varying textures of riffing metal and loose-slinged blues all without ever needing to lower his beer. Meanwhile the timing and propulsion from Joe Smith and Hugh Gilmour is flawless no matter where the songs go.

And from then on, the CD is a revelation. "Another Mule (Is Kicking in My Stall)," harmonica riding over its pulsing bass riff is a gem, metal rising from deep in the south (of England?). The addition of Hannah Kirton on backing vocal kicks the song straight into the land of old time Skynard, yet fully beefed up for the milenium. But it's the full-on duet, "What we do," with this leather-throated vixen over a raging AC/DC blues-addled metal riff that really kicks up a fuss in our little biker bar. Standing toe-to-toe with the Pig Iron lead man, I have no doubt that this biker chick is absolutely beautiful and no doubt that she could kick my ass.

"Ruler of Tomorrow," is perhaps Pig Iron's best encapsulation of the blues and the metal into one song. Riding over a chiming .38 Special guitar riff, the harmonica wails out a fucking wake-up call, until the whole beast drops down into a crystalised moment of pure pop-metal genius. This song has it all, a slamming metal riff, a blaring harmonica solo and lyrics that scream out a personal cry for rebellion against our own demons keeping us down. This song should be blasting out of every juke box in every beer joint the world over.

In the end, Pig Iron is something special. A double-fisted uppercut of testosterone-soaked metal pounded straight down your throat with a heaping helping of the blues. And they got me sucked into their leather-slabbed world. Back here at the Ripple Office, I'm pounding my fists into blocks of cement and chewing on steel-linked chains, trying to toughen myself up. I got me a biker bar to visit.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Great review Todd. Cool sound, right up my alley.

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