(Comrade Aleks brings to us this entertaining interview with members of the UK doom collective Iron Void, along with music from their new album an previous releases.)
There is too much news about releases of old and new big bands in virtual space. It’s easy to get lost in this maze of names, artworks, and riffs, but here we go to lend you a hand and introduce music that you could miss in this endless stream of promo! Today we bring a gospel of Doom for you brothers and sisters, so open your hearts and ears to Iron Void.
This band was born in West Yorkshire, England. Jonathan “Sealey” Seale (bass, vocals), Damien Park (drums), and Steve Wilson (guitars, vocals) have successfully done their best in the form of a power trio and have recorded two full-length albums for the last two years: Their self-titled release was born in 2014 with the help of Barbarian Wrath records, and the new Doomsday work was published by Steve’s own label Doomanoid Records.
Is it good stuff? It is nearly perfect stuff! We had a cute conversation with the Iron Void crew, and I welcome you to share in this exciting reading.
Editor’s Note: After this interview was completed, the band announced that drummer Damien Park has decided to leave Iron Void to focus on his other band, Dead Party Scene. They wish him all the best for the future, while now beginning the search for a new drummer.
Hail men! Iron Void has existed since 1998, but the band had a big hiatus despite its long history. Why did it take so much time to record the first full-length in 2014 — a lack of time or lack of motivation?
Jonathan: The original line-up wanted to record a demo entitled Spell of Ruin, which never materialized due to the break-up of the original band. Before I started playing Doom Metal again with Steve in 2007, I had spent my time playing bass in Black Maria (Sludge Doom), Sermon of Hypocrisy (a Black Metal band which featured current My Dying Bride drummer, Dan Mullins), Scion (Death / Thrash), and Tomb (Doom Metal, featured Jamie ‘Boggy’ Sykes on Drums, ex-Burning Witch and Thorr’s Hammer). I wanted to improve my playing and I’d been into Death and Black Metal since my teenage years and wanted to get that out of my system really.
Iron Void recorded an EP in 2010, Spell of Ruin, which was re-released by Doomanoid Records (Steve’s record label) in 2012 with 2 bonus tracks. I really consider this to be our first album as it’s around 45 minutes in length, although the self-titled debut full-length was recorded in 2013 and finally released by Barbarian Wrath in 2014. The Iron Void album would have been recorded in 2012, but prior to recording our previous drummer (Tom ‘Dexta’ Hey) was fired due to moonlighting with another band and our second guitarist, and original Iron Void vocalist, Paul Wale decided to leave following Dexta’s departure. If we had recorded with this line-up the album would have been slightly different as there were a couple of Paul’s songs we were going to include originally, and the theme for the cover concept was also different.
Damien: I joined the band in 2012 after my friend Dan Mullins asked if I would be interested in auditioning (Dan was originally going to fill-in as a session drummer). Due to his busy schedule with MDB and Thine, I took the opportunity and auditioned for them. At the time I was in two bands (one still active), but after 3 hours I was accepted into the band and the rest is now history.
I believe that first time I heard about Iron Void was 2012 when you released “The Mad Monk” single. Did this record open a way for you? I guess that this song is dedicated to Gregory Rasputin — how did you find his story? And what interesting did you find in it, as ABBA already said all necessary things about him?
Jonathan: Ha, ha! I love ABBA actually, they are one of my guilty pleasures! We recorded ‘The Mad Monk’ as a single in 2011 with the line-up that featured Paul Wale and Dexta. I believe it was originally intended to be released as a split vinyl single with another band but this fell through, so we just uploaded it onto YouTube in 2012 as a stand-alone single ’cause we wanted to release some new material at the time. It helped to promote the band online and we played the Malta Doom Metal Festival at the end of 2012, so it certainly helped elevate our profile in some way. The song is based on the classic 1966 Hammer film, Rasputin: The Mad Monk, starring Christopher Lee (RIP). Steve wrote the lyrics so he’s probably better qualified than me to speak about the influences.
Steve: I recorded a demo of the main two riffs at home but it took me a while to get the middle section right, and in the meantime, I started thinking about lyrics for the song. We were all watching a lot of Hammer films at that time. I got hold of Rasputin on DVD because it starred Christopher Lee and also because it was filmed in the same location as The Plague of The Zombies. I’d never seen it, and as a fan of the other film, I wondered what it would look like. I then became interested in Rasputin and decided to look into his history. Jonathan was writing the lyrics to Necropolis (C.O.T.D.) around the same time, so it seemed fitting for me to do a Hammer-based song as well. I like the fact that Rasputin was a real figure, rather than it being a purely fantasy-themed song. I wrote ‘Those Who Went Before’ during the same period and they are both in the same key. I wanted to write a song or two that were very simple and direct with no filler, and these two were the result.
Iron Void – Mad Monk
Do you have other songs based on movies? And can you remember any modern horror movie that could inspire you to write a song about it?
Jonathan: Yes, we do! ‘The Devil’s Daughter’ is based upon Countess Dracula, the 1971 Hammer film starring Ingrid Pitt as Countess Elizabeth Bathory. I’m not too keen on a lot of modern Horror to be honest. I prefer the older stuff like Hammer, Universal, Vincent Price films, and stuff like Zombie Flesh Eaters, Tombs of The Blind Dead, and even Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Evil Dead, The Thing (remake with Kurt Russell) — you know, all the good stuff!
Okay, after the release of the Iron Void debut album in 2014 you pretty soon came to the second release, Doomsday. Why this time were you so swift in doing a recording of new songs? A lot of new songs, to be clear, because there are 11 songs on this album…
Jonathan: We were originally thinking about recording an EP with some new songs, an old one, and a few covers including ‘Electric Funeral’ by Sabbath and ‘In League With Satan’ by Venom. When we were playing at the Doom For The Doomed fest in Birmingham in May 2014 we had a chat as a band and decided it would be a better idea to record an album instead of an EP, as it would cost the same to release the CD if it was an EP or a full-length album.
Doomsday is actually a mix of old and new Iron Void songs. ‘Doomsday’, ‘Path To Self Destruction’, ‘The Devil’s Daughter’, and ‘Lost Faith’ are all new compositions, although some of the riffs for ‘Lost Faith’ and the intro to ‘The Devil’s Daughter’ are several years old. We used to play ‘Gates of Hell’ and ‘Eye For An Eye’ in our live set around 2009-2010 when Diz was still in the band, but they’d been missing in action since Damien joined in 2012.
‘The Answer Unknown’, ‘Colosseum’, ‘Fire Nerve’, ‘King of Utopia’, and ‘Upon The Mountain’ all originate from the original Iron Void line-up, so some of those songs are 17-18 years old already! I always wanted to record those songs and never had the opportunity, until now. The majority of the music for ‘Upon The Mountain’ was written in 1998, apart from the middle section and lyrics, which are brand new. This song used to be called ‘Welcome To Forever’ and was played live a handful of times with the original line-up. ‘King of Utopia’ used to be entitled ‘Neck Medicine’.
We also wanted to put another album out as soon as possible after Iron Void as we knew the follow-up to Doomsday would take more time to write and record. We are working on the follow-up album right now. It’s gonna be a concept album based on the Arthurian legends, entitled Excalibur.
Steve: The plan was to release Doomsday through Barbarian Wrath, the label who released our debut CD. An EP seemed difficult to sell as it would cost them the same to press and us the same for mastering and artwork. That’s when we extended it to a full album. We wanted to record at least eight tracks if we could manage it. When we started going through older songs and re-learning them with Damien on drums, it soon turned into eleven tracks! We’ve been talking about the next album for several years. It’s been roughly planned out and we have one full track that just needs arranging and lyrics, plus lots of riffs and fragments. There will be a lot of work and more expense involved, so it will definitely take longer to record than Doomsday.
Damien: When I first joined, I just had to learn the songs for the self-titled album to record. With the older songs I did re-arrange some of the drumming due having a simple drum set-up, and I don’t use a double kick pedal, whereas Diz (previous drummer) did. After the first album was recorded we already had some new songs in the works, plus some old ones that Steve and Sealey wanted to bring back to life again. The next album will take a while, but rest assured we will give it our all!
The album is diverse and interesting to listen to; it has not only cool riffs but also attractive melodies and acoustic parts. What were your aims when you went to the studio?
Jonathan: Thank you! That’s exactly what we wanted to achieve. We always try and write songs which are heavy but also very catchy. We do aim to incorporate more acoustic parts on the next album too. When we recorded the album at Skyhammer Studio with Chris Fielding we wanted the album to have more clarity than the self-titled debut, as a few people had moaned about the mix being slightly muffled although we were pretty happy with that overall at the time. We also wanted to boost the guitar sound and push the vocals more than we have done in the past. Chris worked great as producer and gave us a lot of new ideas in terms of vocal harmonies. We’ll definitely be working with him again on the next album.
Steve: Chris helped us think about how we can use dual vocals in the band for sure. He is an expert when it comes to mixing different amps and pedals together, so we can be sure of getting the sound we want. I don’t even need to bring an amp to Skyhammer. They’ve got everything we need there already! It’s brilliant.
The ‘Path To Self Destruction’ intro was something I came up with in rehearsals. It’s in ¾ time and I couldn’t seem to work it into a full song. It makes for a really memorable intro, though. ‘The Devil’s Daughter’ intro was written by Jonathan. I just arranged it on guitar and overdubbed the higher parts on the studio version. We’re all very happy with the sound of the finished album. James Plotkin’s mastering really helped to create the finished product. He made a vinyl master, too, so we have that ready should fate smile on us kindly.
I’d like to ask you to tell a story of one particular song from the Doomsday album. Which one do you choose?
Jonathan: Can we pick one each? ‘Upon The Mountain’ is one I’m particularly proud of. The lyrics are loosely based on ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, which is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia and is regarded as one of the earliest poems in literature. Steve and I are very interested in ancient civilizations, myths, and legends. It’s a very rich subject matter and we’ll no doubt be writing about these subjects again in future.
Steve: ‘Lost Faith’ is an interesting one for me. The music was written by Jonathan, and he also came up with the title but not the lyrics. He asked me to come up with something because he thought it would suit my vocal range more than his. I was reading a book about The Nag Hammadi scrolls at the time. The scrolls, which were found in a cave a few years ago, were the scriptures of ancient Gnostic Christians who didn’t take the bible or the resurrection of Jesus literally. They believed eternal life was physically impossible, and that these stories were allegorical. They were then persecuted as heretics by the Romans (and later the Orthodox Christian church) because their version of events didn’t fit the script required by the established order. I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I realised that a worldwide faith had basically been promoted as the opposite of what its founders wanted. I then started thinking about the world today and the terrible acts that are carried out by extremists. This led to the chorus, which I came up with in rehearsal while we were jamming the riff and quickly wrote the lyrics down. The chorus has got a real Lee Dorrian and Cathedral vibe to it, which is a nice little tribute to one of our favourite bands.
Damien: ‘Gates of Hell’ was a pain for me (laughs), just keeping up my stamina and making sure it was tight! ‘Upon The Mountain’ was my favorite song to record. While Steve and Sealey were jamming it I could just picture how to play each section and imagined what it would be like to bring down a mountain, which in my case was the drum kit (laughs)!
Iron Void – Gates of Hell
Doomsday was released a few weeks ago on Doomanoid Records. What do you do now to promote the album?
Jonathan: We recently played a few shows in the UK and Europe, including Malta Doom Metal Festival (MDM), Dutch Doom Days, and a show at Biebob in Belgium with our good friends, King Heavy.
Damien: After 3 long years of hard work, recording 2 albums, and touring every Autumn, we are going to take some time to relax and concentrate on writing for the next album. We will try for some Summer festival slots next year and see where that takes us.
Can you share more info about Day of Doom? What’re your impressions of sharing the stage with Pentagram?
Jonathan: It was an awesome experience and a dream come true! Pentagram are one of our primary influences. To have the opportunity to play with them was amazing and quite surreal to be honest! The audience were very receptive, even for us, and that was the first time we’ve ever played a show in Spain. We had dinner with Pentagram the day before the gig and hung out backstage at the show. They’re all really cool guys and it was great to hang out with Bobby and Victor, they’re our fucking heroes’ man, it was so cool! We got on really well with them and it’s cool when you meet your idols and they’re nice people. We’d love to play some more shows with them in future, we really would.
Steve: The two guys who organised the Barcelona gig (Jose and Samo) took us all out to dinner the night before the gig as it was Pentagram’s day off. It really helped meeting them in advance of the show and got rid of any nerves we had about sharing a stage with them. It would be easy for a veteran band to be aloof and just ignore the support act, but they were great. Very down to earth, even Bobby, who was exactly how I expected him to be, both off stage and on. Day of Doom is an annual festival, but this year’s edition ended up being just a three-band line-up because the date had to be moved to accommodate Pentagram’s European tour dates. We don’t normally fly to Europe for one-off gigs, but with it already being booked, and us being looked after so well by the promoters, we went ahead with it. To be honest, we would not have pulled out of playing a Pentagram show in Europe whatever the circumstances may have been!
Damien: It was one of the greatest experiences of my life to go to Barcelona and support a legendary Doom band that has been around for a very long time. Jose and Samo were really nice guys, they looked after us and made sure we were made to feel very welcome, and Pentagram were all really cool when we met up for a meal. Pete Campbell (Drums) and I got along great talking about all sorts of music we like and drum heroes, as drummers do (laughs). Overall, I’m very happy!
Were there any problems with the Doomsday recording session? It has a professional production and I wonder how carefully you were in the studio.
Jonathan: We recorded Doomsday at Skyhammer Studio in Cheshire, UK, which is owned by Jon Davis (Conan). Chris Fielding recorded, mixed, and produced the album. Chris also plays bass in Conan. There were no real problems at all, everything went smoothly and on schedule. We spent two 4-day weekends recording and mixing the album. Chris did a fantastic job and I would highly recommend working with him to anyone. As I mentioned earlier, we will definitely be recording at Skyhammer and working with Chris again in future.
Steve: I had a couple of guitar problems that saw Chris digging into his tool box at one point, but musically, we were fine. I would like to go back to Skyhammer with a new guitar or two, and definitely a good acoustic guitar. I borrowed Jon’s for the sessions, as the cheap old one I’d brought with me proved unplayable in the end! Everything costs money though and we had to make the best of it. Luckily everything fell into place.
Damien: We had a timetable for this album and we achieved it, which was great to accomplish. It took just one day for me to record my drum parts in 8 hours. I maybe had one or two little slip ups but Chris was great to work with, he really brings out the best in you. When I finished one song and said, “great take”, he would then say, “just try it once more but with more aggression”, or something along those lines. He knows his stuff and I look forward to working with him again in the near future.
Which bands formed your vision of doom metal?
Jonathan: Our main influences in Iron Void are Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, and Pentagram. We also love bands like Trouble, Witchfinder General, The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, Pagan Altar, Cathedral, Sleep, Electric Wizard, Candlemass, and Penance, and the Maryland Doom scene is also a big influence for us — bands such as Internal Void, Iron Man, Revelation, Unorthodox, and Wretched, to name a few. We’re also very much influenced by classic Rock / Metal bands like Judas Priest, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, and N.W.O.B.H.M. bands like Iron Maiden, Venom, etc.
Steve: Jonathan and I used to live in the same town and I’d see him on and off at local gigs. We got talking one night at one of these gigs. I was interested in forming a Doom band and I asked him whether he would go back to Doom Metal as he was playing in Black and Death bands at the time. Jonathan asked me what style I wanted to play and I remember saying “Maryland Doom.” When it comes to Iron Void, we both have the same influences.
Damien: My influences are Black Sabbath, Cathedral, Electric Wizard, and Sleep. But I also listen to other genres such as Black/Death Metal, Grindcore, Punk, Avant-Garde, Instrumental, Classic Rock/Metal bands. I’m currently listening to With The Dead, Anthrax, Clutch, White Zombie, High on Fire, and early Sepultura.
Iron Void – The Devil’s Daughter
Jonathan, you also played with Arkham Witch on their gigs. How much time did you spend with them? What did you like most in this experience?
Jonathan: I’ve been friends with the Arkham Witch guys (and gal) for several years now, stretching back to when they were in The Lamp of Thoth. We’ve played with them several times over the last few years, even touring Europe in 2013, with Hooded Priest completing the unholy trinity. Aldo (Guitars) asked if I would be interested in filling in for Jay on bass at the Malta Doom Metal Festival (MDM) show they had planned, as Jay couldn’t make it. Aldo knew Iron Void would be there already and it made sense.
They were playing a special ‘The Lamp of Thoth’ set featuring many classic songs from TLOT. I said yes and started learning a set of 10 songs every night at home for around 2 months. I rehearsed with them twice as a band, then played the show!
We were a bit worried there wouldn’t be many people left as we were the last band on after Venom Inc. They had played, and another band before us, and we were due onstage at 12.30am! We couldn’t have been more wrong! There were loads of people watching the show, including members of Venom Inc., who even said afterwards that it was a killer set! That was pretty mind-blowing for me, being a massive Venom fan for years! I really enjoyed it and it was nice to just relax and play bass rather than concentrating on singing and playing as I usually do with Iron Void. There has been talk of me joining them on a permanent basis, but this remains to be seen as Jay might well want to stay in the band, I’m just not sure at this moment in time. We’ll wait and see what happens!
Damien: After watching Sealey play with them, I said to myself “you should join”. He did a great job with them, really great! When he said that there might be an opportunity to join full-time, I said go for it. I play in another band and they have no problem with me being in 2 bands. Even if Steve turned around and said he’d joined another band, I’d be happy, because at the end of the day, we all love to play and listen to music and we’re all very creative and always have the urge to write and play, and no-one will ever stop that.
Have you already listened to the new Arkham Witch album I Am Providence? How do you like it?
Jonathan: I haven’t listened to the whole album so I can’t really pass judgement as yet! I have heard 4 songs so far. ‘From Beyond’ is cool, it sounds a bit like The Misfits, which isn’t a bad thing, I’m a huge Misfits fan! The chorus of ‘Dead But Dreaming’ was quite a surprise on initial listening. It’s quite commercial sounding and I wasn’t really expecting that, to be honest. However, upon further listens, it does grow on you. I’m not sure really, I’d like to hear more before I make any other comments, but it is interesting that they are trying new ideas, I guess. I’d just like to hear the whole album first.
Steve: I haven’t heard it yet, but Simon and Aldo spoke to me about it in Malta. There was something about their label not liking it. I’m told they’ve moved away from their usual sound this time ’round. I’ll have to wait and see!
Thank you men for this interesting and detailed interview, it was funny. 🙂 Let’s finish it with one brief question: What does the word “doom” mean to you?
Jonathan: Well, that’s quite a tough question to answer! In terms of music, Doom is more of a feeling or an attitude rather than just playing as slow as you can. It’s hard to describe, but a lot of people who aren’t initiated often say, “How can you listen to music that’s so depressing?”
In response, I often say, “In my opinion, Doom is very uplifting and cathartic.” Although the subject matter is often bleak, it has the opposite effect on the listener. I would also add that Doom is a reflection of the world we live in. To quote Saint Vitus, it’s a ‘Dark World’!
Steve: It means everything. It’s one of the few metal sub-genres that I have stuck with over the years, alongside traditional Metal, which I keep returning to. I have just always been able to relate to the honesty of the lyrics, which fit the music perfectly. I tend to go for the Maryland Doom bands and ones that stick to the more Black Sabbath influence rather than Funeral Doom, for instance. The lyrics in Doom can be pessimistic, but it always leaves you feeling better.