There isn’t much on Iron Void’s third full-length Excalibur that you haven’t heard before. Traditional doom groups are less prominent than they used to be, but even in this post-Gates of Slumber world, you’ll find plenty of stragglers to choose from. King Arthur-based concept albums are also plentiful to the point where I’m pretty sure literally every metal subgenre has at least one to choose from. But with all this in mind, Excalibur is an incredibly refreshing listen.
As with Iron Void albums past, a bare bones approach is what really makes Excalibur work. The UK trio’s chemistry is impeccable, and their musicianship is smooth, but there’s no real sense of the band trying too hard to impress the listener. Several songs do feature more elaborate structures as “Lancelot of the Lake” has an appropriately watery interlude while tracks like “Forbidden Love” and “Enemy Within” pick up the pace.
In addition, a more epic flair sets this album apart from its predecessors. The guitar riffs often sound grandiose and monolithic, likely boasted by the clean production job. “Dragon’s Breath” and “The Death of Arthur” also work in some nifty acoustic intros while “Avalon” closes things with all-out folk balladry. Of course, the band approaches high fantasy with a hardy working-class attitude deeply rooted in Angel Witch and Manilla Road tradition.
And at the end of the day, nothing matters more to Iron Void than serving the needs of the almighty riff. The construction of said riffs is basic and they’re often accompanied by vocals that rarely venture beyond an equally basic range, but songs like “The Coming of a King” and “A Death to Some, A Nightmare to Others” are catchy as hell. It echoes the minimalist punk ethos that made Saint Vitus and Pentagram so timeless and makes you wish that more modern doom bands strived for this memorability.
Excalibur’s emphasis on a conceptual narrative in combination with theatrical riffs and occasional acoustic work easily make it Iron Void’s most ambitious outing to date. However, the band stays grounded thanks to its continued adherence to a rock-solid band dynamic and memorable songwriting. Strongly recommended to those who prefer the old school doom approach as well as to those who think that doom is just about slow guitars in oceans of effects, Easily one of the best traditional doom albums of 2018, if not the last decade.
“The Coming of a King”
“The Grail Quest”
“A Dream to Some, A Nightmare to Others”
“The Death of Arthur”
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