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Iron Rage – Cold World Calling

Iron Age
Cold World Calling
by Rachel Montgomery at 04 November 2019, 10:24 PM

IRON RAGE is a band formed in 1978 by a couple self-described outcasts in high school. Rebelling against the dominant New Wave scene at the time, they produced demos that combine elements of Punk Rock, New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWBHM) and Garage Rock. The latter is especially apparent in the production, which would be fine if I could hear the vocals.

However, whenever the singing starts, it’s either so far back I can’t hear what he’s saying, or it’s so far forward it distorts and overwhelms the rest of the song. While I understand these were demos, I wish the re-release would re-master the vocals. However, despite my problems with the production, the technique and musicality were spot-on.

Livin’ for Today” is the opening track and it has the same tone as a NWBHM song. It’s hard-hitting and I’m sure it would be a great song if the production were form a professional studio. However, the different elements are jumbled together by the vintage recording styles, and it sounds muted or garbled. Granted, this is a recording issue and doesn’t reflect on the instrumentation. From the recording, the instrumentals are the highlight, with engaging sweeps and harmonies that keep the listener hooked through a few minutes without vocals or lyrics.

Stab in the Dark” and “Steel to Survive” have pure NWBHM riffs and tones: fast, toned down and hard-hitting. Like the opening song, these tracks show promise and some great technique in the instrumentation. However, especially in the latter track, the vocals are muddied when they come on even more so than the opener. I enjoyed the opening of “Steel to Survive,” leading in with a solid drum roll.

I Don’t Need No…” is supposed to tie into the next track “Bad Reputation” which really sounds like a 1980s demo. With the riffs being a little dissimilar, I wish this was one track. On top of that, everything is so muffled; it sounds like it was recorded in a garage. The guitar solo came through clear, and the guitarist has nice technique. However, before the solo, the instruments melted together to the point where it was difficult to pick out different parts.

Night Stalker” has some squealing ambiance before the opening riff. The song itself is standard with the title as a hook in the chorus and a mid-tempo melody. The vocals echo so I can’t judge the quality. Here, he sounds like Rob Halford, but far away or underwater. The instrumentation is well-done, but once the vocals come on, the echoing quality can overwhelm the track.

Free Man” opens like a Punk Rock song. With the exception of the melodic vocal line, it reminds me of a RAMONES song; the main riff reminds me of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The similarities convey the band’s style as being more Punk Metal than melodic, including the muddied production.

The Battle” is an intense ride. The melodies, like the last song, are strong and are well-executed for their genre. I enjoyed the interplay between the drums and the guitars specifically and the snare ending.

Broken Promise” has a great soaring melody that reminds me of BLACK SABBATH’s later work with Ozzy before Dio showed up. However, the vocals are buried under the down-tuned, muddy guitars. I also hear some unintentional squealing in the second chorus. Again, the guitar solo shows some excellent technique, but the production is muddying the songs.

Finally, the closing song, “Tearin’ Me Apart,” has a softer tone to the vocals; they’re still muddied, and I can’t make out what he’s saying even though he’s singing clearly, but the tone is softer. The melody is undercut with sharp guitar notes which gives the song some interesting harmonies.

To this point, the vocals, from what I can hear of them, have been passable. In “Cold War Calling”, an extra track, they take a dive. I’m not sure if it’s because they’re buried under the rest of the sound or if they are nasally and off-key in places. However, the outro is the strongest part of the song with varying interplays with the guitars, ambiance and vocal elements.

Overall, the instrumentals are the strongest part of the album. The vocals are either so far in the background, or when they come in the foreground, they’re accompanied by so much noise that it overwhelms the song. It’s a big production issue and it took me out of enjoying the album. I wish this band went further so they could increase their production, or we could get some solid live performances out of them.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 4

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Livin’ for Today
2. Stab in the Dark
3. Steel to Survive
4. I Don’t Need No
5. Bad Reputation
6. Night Stalker
7. Free Man
8. The Battle
9. Broken Promise
10. Tearin’ Me Apart
11. Cold World Calling (Bonus)
Lineup:
John M. Williams – Guitars
Joe Scurti – Bass & Vocals
Tommy Gallo – Drums
Dennis Cadorette – Drums
Steve Williams – Bass
Jim Williams – Vocals
Tim McGrath – Drums
Record Label: Heaven and Hell Records
     


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