Iron Thrones // The Wretched Sun
Rating: 4.0/5.0 —Sophomore slump (but still great!)
Label: Who Needs a Label?
Websites: ironthrones.com | myspace.com/ironthrones
Release Date: July 27th, 2010

Those of you who have been reading Angry Metal Guy since the beginning will remember that I lauded heavy praise on a Minneapolis, Minnesota based band called Iron Thrones last year after I downloaded their record (for free) and had myself a little Angry Metal Hernia. The band was incredible. Like some kind of unholy cross between Opeth and Jesus… or whatever. I promptly declared the record amazing, gave it five stars and then took a cold shower. In any case, Visions of Light, the debut, still ranks as the best unsigned act I’ve ever heard and I have had very, very high hopes for the follow up record, The Wretched Sun, which will be self-released on the 27th of July after the very talented band went and won the No Label Needed contest and got sent to a pro studio.

The Wretched Sun is being billed as a bit of an exploratory EP and one can definitely hear why. While that language sounds to this Angry Metal Guy like it could be an excuse for what could be seen as a sophomore slump, The Wretched Sun definitely has a sound all its own. While Visions of Light had a definitely Opeth meets Cult of Luna kind of feel to it, The Wretched Sun has traveled way further down that Cult of Luna side of the equation. Thick and hard to cut through at times, the sound is still interesting enough to keep me listening from start to finish (for the most part).  But the band’s “sound” isn’t what makes them interesting, instead it’s their song writing skills that make them world class.

From the get go, with the ridiculously powerful song “Like A Moth to Flame,” Iron Thrones set the stage for a topsy turvy ride which illustrates all their best sides. While the lyrics seem a bit rote and the metaphor a tad simplistic, the background music is beautifully thick and detailed. Another track that really stood out for me is the final track on the album, “And the Sky Came Falling Down,” which again sees the band wandering into sludgey Baroness, Neurosis kind of territory at the beginning, but changing pace with the clean vocals which are actually more reminiscent of Alice in Chains or Life of Agony than most of the band’s metal or hardcore contemporaries. Clean vocals also litter the end of what is easily the best track on the album “Against the Grain.” This track is just a goddamn powerhouse: huge riffs, amazing heaviness, beautiful breakdown and a surprisingly poppy but epic outro.

It’s hard to say what makes the band tick, but if “Against the Grain” is any example, it seems to me that the key Iron Thrones is inventive riffs and fantastic arrangements. The record is littered with excellent tracks that are dynamically written and never dwell to long on a single theme. The playing is fantastic and the band worked very hard to keep a pretty natural tone to their record, not falling to the most irritating of metal trends with excessive drum replacement (though the guitar tone is definitely super human). However, the band is done a disservice with the various types of overproduction that can be heard on this album. Not nearly as dynamic as the previous self-produced record, this seems to really suck the life out a lot of the slower, sludgey parts making them uninteresting and flaccid.  For me this stood out nowhere as much as on the 11 minute track “I Once Had the Crown”. While this song could also be criticized for lacking the kind of flow and transitional genius that was displayed on Visions of Light, frankly some of it just dragged and I got bored. And you wouldn’t like me when I’m bored.

Yet, despite the strikes against it, The Wretched Sun still feels fresh and interesting. The players are superb, the performances equally so and, most importantly, the ideas are novel enough to make you interested but familiar enough keep you around. In essence, Iron Thrones is still the real deal and I’m already looking forward to their next record.

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