War Iron – “The Faceless Sea” (2010)

There’s a used book store in Glaway, Ireland called Bell Book and Candle that also carries a fair amount of used records.  Plus, as an added bonus, they have an entire section devoted to new (and used) releases by Irish bands.  A lot of it is self-released or on uber small labels, and when I brought my selections to the register the owner of the shop told me that the bands get all the proceeds from the local stuff he sells – he gives them space in store to show his support for the local scene.  Which is pretty damn cool.

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My guess is that this copy of War Iron’s 2010 EP The Faceless Sea is probably used (note – the CD version came out in 2010, this vinyl version in 2012).  The jacket is a little rough around the edges, it wasn’t sealed, and it’s missing the DVD that supposedly accompanies the first 50 of the individually numbered copies (mine is #003).  The entire run was limited to 250, all on baby blue vinyl, and it comes with a one-sheet that includes the lyrics to the two tracks.  I described this as an EP because that’s how it’s listed on Discogs, but it’s actually a bit unusual.  It’s true there are only two songs, one per side, but they’re really long – “Inch Cape” at 12:09 and “Face the Sea” at 20:49.  So from a pure length point of view this feels more like an LP than an EP.  Maybe it’s just semantics; but regardless, you’re getting plenty of music on The Faceless Sea.

War Iron are from Belfast, so they’re actually from the UK and not Ireland, since while Northern Ireland is on the island of Ireland, it’s part of the UK (a source of admitted confusion for us Americans).  Their lineup is a bit unique, though quite fitting with their doom metal/sludge style – they have a singer and a drummer, of course… and two bassists.  No guitarist.  Two basses.  So as I’m sure you can guess, this shit is heavy.  And thick.  Like swimming in a pool of motor oil.  Like getting body slammed by King Kong Bundy and having him lay on top of you afterwards.  The kind of heavy that makes your brain feel dense.  Much of the music is slow and sludgy and thick, but War Iron know how to bring it too, and when they kick it into gear that two bass attack is like getting punched in the chest by a jackhammer.  Baggy’s vocals are growled in an almost black metal fashion, creating a cloud of fear and aggression around the music.

“Inch Cape” is actually a version of the ballad “The Inchcape Rock,” written by poet Robert Southey and originally published in 1802.  It’s a tale of a pirate who inadvertently and ironically seals his own fate by disabling the bell on a warning buoy near a rocky island… and when he himself is back in the area later during a storm, that bell isn’t there to warn him that he’s near the island.  So his boat crashes into it and he dies.  Karma.  I like how War Iron used the original lyrics and made some alterations here and there to make it better fit their version, though I was a bit surprised they left out the last quatrain:

But even in his dying fear,
One dreadful sound could the Rover hear,

A sound as if with the Inchcape Bell,
The Devil below was ringing his knell.
— “The Inchcape Rock” by Robert Southey

That’s bad-ass.

“Face the Sea” gives us another epic story, and musically I found this song to flow well in the way it alternates pacing and its long instrumental stretches.  The lengths of both songs ensure that there’s ample time for the music to develop and truly paint the mood, bringing that oppressive doomy quality out and letting it fester in your ears.  Generally I’m not a big doom/sludge guy, but I like War Iron’s approach, from the double bass attack to the types of stories they chose to represent musically.  You can check out The Faceless Sea online for free HERE and they even still have vinyl copies available for only £10, which is a bargain.  So go check out some War Iron and let that double bass pummel the money out of your wallet.