Germany’s Iron Walrus are back with their third full length on Redfield Records, A Beast Within. If you’re familiar with their back catalog you already have a good idea of what to expect with the new album. Iron Walrus craft a straightforward form of sludge that rarely strays from the path that bands like Crowbar and Eyehategod hacked through the swamp before them. While I enjoy experimentation and genre blurring in my metal, there’s nothing wrong with a band staying in their lane and doubling down on their strengths. So, let’s measure the tusks and see how the band has grown on A Beast Within.
Coming in at under 35 minutes, the new album is compact and concise. The songs are short for the sludge genre with minimal repetition and zero drone influence to be found. The pacing of the album along with its aggression are highly significant to what makes Iron Walrus stand out from their peers. A Beast Within feels fresh and contemporary while not breaking the mold in any way, which is an achievement in itself.
I really dig frontman Aufi’s phlegm-heavy, guttural vocal style, which is a strange brew of Kirk Windstein and early 90’s Neil Fallon. He’s really perfected it on the new record, being an obvious improvement from his work on 2015’s The Plague. Mid tempo tracks like “Ghost” and “Abyssal” really allow Aufi to shine and his vocal style fits nicely into the pocket created by his walrus-masked bandmates. The lyrics are a bit underwhelming and at times juvenile, but it’s forgivable for the most part.
The guitars are crunchy and heavy, but after a few listens the simplicity becomes overly apparent. There really isn’t too much to dig into for the riff addicts, and it’s hard to think of any that stood out or were memorable in any way. With the songs being short, the basic chord progressions and elemental rhythm section don’t detract from the album, if anything they fit the design, but some beefed up solos or intricate harmonies would have went a long way. On the other hand, the song “No More Reason” is a prime example of this basic formula working. It’s nothing flashy and it’s simplistic nature carries a nice weight, and there are even some fun harmonies achieved as well.
The album closes with the Moby Dick themed “Drowning,” an instrumental track that pulls samples from the 1956 film adaptation. It’s highly enjoyable and has to be the stand out of the album for me. With creaking wood and ocean waves underneath the lonely guitar fretting we hear Ahab’s famous quote, “Speak not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.” It’s just too perfect for this nautical themed group. Overall, I think Iron Walrus have put out a great record with A Beast Within, although it would be nice to see them stretch their legs a bit on the next release.
A Beast Within is now available from Redfleid Records.