IRON CLAW

Heavy Psych / Hard Rock • United Kingdom
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Hailing from the town of Dumfries, South West Scotland, the origins of the band Iron Claw started in the summer of 1969. Founder member Alex Wilson, who was then aged 21, and was at the time assisting in the management of another local band, as well as recording music as a hobby, was inspired by seeing Led Zeppelin on their first concert tour of Britain at a show at Newcastle City Hall on June 20th 1969. This “revelation” planted a seed of the ambition to start a band good enough to eventually release recordings of their own songs.

Having been involved in the local music scene, Alex knew the best young guitarist and drummer in the area who were still uninvolved with any other bands, and on August 13th 1969, Jimmy Ronnie (15) (guitar) joined, followed by Ian McDougall (15) (drums) on August 23rd 1969. Finding a vocalist proved more difficult,
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IRON CLAW Iron Claw album cover 3.08 | 2 ratings
Iron Claw
Heavy Psych 2009
IRON CLAW A different Game album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
A different Game
Hard Rock 2011

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IRON CLAW Iron Claw

Album · 2009 · Heavy Psych
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I’ve often wondered why there were no other bands for many years that tried to sound like Black Sabbath. There were a few hard rock bands with a Hammond organ who fell into the Deep Purple category of early metal, and there were plenty of blues-based hard rockers who were inspired by Led Zeppelin. But where were the Black Sabbath doom metalists?

Iron Claw was quite likely the first. Not only did they try to sound like Black Sabbath but early on they included their cover of the entire “Black Sabbath” album and the single in their show. Naturally, they tried to record their own heavy doom rock, proto-metal songs but with such an uncanny resemblance to the band that inspired them that it’s almost too weird. Or too obvious.

This CD is a compilation of Iron Claw’s early recordings from 1970 to 1974 and it captures the band moving through various styles and phases. If this had been a compilation culled from five full-length albums then we would have a very clear picture of the band’s progress in general. Unfortunately, the band never recorded an album during this time, and we are left with the only preserved pieces of this band’s development and growth. This is like finding the notes and drafts of what could have become a series of five novels.

The first three songs, “Clawstrophobia,” “Mist Eye,” and “Sabotage” really sound like Sabbath mimics. But by “Crossrocker” and “Skullcrusher” the band are beginning to establish a Sabbath-like sound that doesn’t come across as a blatant attempt at copying but shows them developing their own style. The CD booklet explains that Iron Claw sent a demo to Black Sabbath’s management and received a letter requesting if not demanding that they stop what they were doing.

The band moved on into more hard rock territory and added some saxophones and flute on some of their songs, and later an orchestra as well. But we find by the end of the CD that with “Winter” and “Devil’s” the band are returning to a less rock and roll sound and more of a doomy, proto-metal palette.

Overall, there are three strikes against Iron Claw on this CD and the first one is that the sound is at the best of times sub-par but acceptable and at worst abysmal. They recorded in a 4-track studio (where they were never allowed to turn up the amps) and later in an 8-track studio, and the sound quality on many songs is as good as a mini-tape recorder capturing a live performance in someone’s living room. Strikes two and three are for the songs that are far too much like Black Sabbath and the unfortunate attempt to move toward a more mainstream hard rock sound (as always, there was pressure from the studio to record something that might be a “hit”).

The one moment that really shines for me above all is “Skullcrusher”. This song is a true visionary heavy metal song, in my opinion. Though still reminiscent of Sabbath in the guitar solos, I find this song reminds me of an 80’s band called Tysondog whose first album was produced by Chronos of Venom. The riff is a wonderfully monster heavy beast perfect for head-banging. The lyrics are about some mythological creature that eats people (how about that one, Judas Priest!). The recording is horrible and sounds like some early 80’s doom metal band’s basement recording but the spirit of metal is there. In particular I love to listen after the first guitar solo wraps up and the bass is abruptly left on its own to reintroduce the riff before being joined by the guitar and drums again. A classic 80's metal move! How I wish this song could have been given a proper studio recording. It could have been one of the best songs of metal’s early years.

Alas, this album will doubtfully impress many listeners mostly due to the shoddy sound and the date of the recordings; I've noticed that a lot of fans of modern metal have a hard time relating to the early works way back then. However, the effort made and the thoughts behind the music are certainly worthy of noting in the annals of heavy metal history. Iron Claw could have been recognized pioneers of the genre if things had only gone better for them.

Recommended to those who can tolerate or appreciate crappy recordings but also love the sounds of the early years of heavy metal. This band has my admiration for trying to be really heavy in a time when Black Sabbath were the only ones making any serious headway with this new genre of rock.

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