This record presents an exciting opportunity for the listener: how often do you get to hear a new release from a band that cut its teeth in the true proto-metal days? This is Scotland's own Iron Claw's first release after some 40 years of relative inactivity. The band were recently described by Classic Rock magazine as being amongst 'The Lost Pioneers of Heavy Metal' and with this record the band hope to make a name for themselves once again.
The album opens with 'What Love Left', a track that carries a 'hey-day of British heavy metal' spirit with it. Powered first by original guitarist Jimmy Ronnie's super-old-school sound (think Paul Kossoff in an aggressive mood) then matched by new singer Gordon Brown's voice. Wait for the chorus to hear his voice and Ronnie's guitar weave around one another in some pure rock 'n' roll goodness. This track also has the first of what will be consistent solo breaks from Ronnie. However, his lead tone is something altogether more modern; heel down,gainy wah work in this case.
A pang of southern rock can be heard throughout the bulk of this record and third track 'The Traveller' is evidence. This one also demonstrates that singer Brown also comes from the Free school of rock music, big booming deep vocals not unlike Paul Rodgers'. Drummer Ian McDougall, another original member, keeps things 100% rock 100% of the time. Plenty of kicker heavy stuff from this guy that keeps the whole record sounding particularly solid.
Forth on the album we have title track 'A Different Game', an agreeably raw rock ballad. Here Brown takes us on a heart rending lyrical journey while Ronnie plays bright, almost Brent Hinds style overdriven chords. Sixth track we have the proof of the suspected southern influences with the conspicuously named 'Southern Sky'. Nicely off-kilter licks that The Allman Brothers would dig follow a sweet acoustic intro. Yet the sounds keep you guessing on this record, such as on number eight, 'It's Easy', another with an acoustic intro but the chorus sees the band pull out Guns 'N' Roses style big, filthy chords with relaxed mid-tempo drums behind.
Tenth track, 'Love is Blind' is one of the heavier hitters to be found here. The final minute and a half of this six minute long monster is a hellride of Judas Priest meets Hendrix psychedelia! Coming up behind, 'Targets' opens with some slick dirty riffing from bass slinger Alex Wilson. Lastly we have 'See Them Fall' which is animated by Wilson's fat bass sound. This is an angry one to boot, probably the most 'metal' track to be found here along with 'Love is Blind'. Yet again, Ronnie keeps us guessing with some old-fashioned, fx coloured, proggy lead work, which adds a fine touch of Krautrock vibe to the end of the record.
It's not everyday that a band from metal's formative years comes out with new material for us obsessive music heads to meditate over. As such, I think this is a release to be relished. It's not quite as dark as the Iron Claw of the early 70's but it is equally as experimental which is part of the joy of listening to proto-metal music when you can find it. This record scores major points for maintaining integrity. They could have put together a record of radio friendly, three minute hard rock songs but no, true to the title, this one is a different game.
Iron Claw, A Different Game.
For fans of: Free, Judas Priest, Diamond Head.
Get a taste here: http://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/track/what-love-left
By Edward Gerard Brophy
For Born Again Nihilist and Grip of Delusion, 2011.