Spleen & Goad

rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Misanthropizer
02. Concrete Shock
03. CSP
04. Off Switch
05. Rat Flag
06. Lead Transfusion
07. Exlexed
08. The Gurges
09. O.D. Rose

They may have emerged from a flourishing stoner rock and doom scene back in the mid-'90s, but IRON MONKEY were always more concerned with broken teeth and bloody fists than they were with bong hits. And so it continues, with the second incarnation of a band that have become legendary for the sheer heft and hostility they spew out as a matter of course.

"Spleen & Goad" is the second IRON MONKEY album since founder member Jim Rushby kick-started their return, and it proudly repeats the grotesque violence of 2017's "9-13" comeback joint. A barbarous blizzard of muscular sludge, feral hardcore punk and, every now and then, mutant SABBATH-isms, this is an album that exudes contempt for feelgood frivolity and virtually compels the listener to smash up their immediate surroundings.

In truth, sludge metal has never come close to topping the riff-powered viciousness of IRON MONKEY's first two albums, wherein late, great vocalist Johnny Morrow shrieked and vomited his way into metal history over some of the fattest riffs ever penned. Nonetheless, "Spleen & Goad" comes impressively close to hitting those same levels of intensity and bile.

The opening "Misanthropizer" is a case in point: a lurching, sweat-drenched pile-up of dirty hardcore riffs, peppered with Rushby's untamed roar, it oozes bad attitude and revels in feedback-shrouded, atonal noise. Likewise, "Concrete Shock" gleefully subverts the SABBATH-ian code, reducing its rumbling groove to a dense, airless churn, delivered with near-psychotic aggression.

Simultaneously huge-sounding and raw as all filthy fuck, "Spleen & Goad" is a crazed, unrelenting juggernaut of obnoxiousness. When IRON MONKEY drop to a slower tempo, as they do on the genuinely vile "C.S.P." , their use of sledgehammer repetition clicks into a higher gear and those hideous riffs wind themselves into a mesmerizing cyclone of foulness and lobotomized rage. "Off Switch" is even more languid and hateful, and repeatedly whips up a cacophony of deranged soloing and feedback, as Rushby belches more vitriol over a subtly morbid slew of post-HELLHAMMER riffs and funereal thudding. In contrast, the likes of "Rat Flag" and "Lead Transfusion" dig deeper into sludge archetypes, with bursts of speed and an underlying sense of controlled chaos. Thrillingly myopic, "Lead Transfusion" comes closest to summing up IRON MONKEY circa 2024, as the song's chromatic riff onslaught warps and heaves in real time, giving the impression that the band's primary concern is bludgeoning everyone to oblivion, with desperate, drugged-out abandon. The flailing anger management failures of "Exlexed" are even more vivid and disquieting, until the song morphs into a two-note rock 'n' roll sprint to the line that comes dripping with unhealthy adrenalin. Concluding with the angular, stuttering sludge of "The Gurges" and the freeform, anarcho-ambient slurry of "O.D. Rose", "Spleen & Goad" may lack the element of abominable surprise that made the early IRON MONKEY records so essential, but when it comes to sounding like an army of pissed-off gorillas let loose in an amplifier factory, there is still no one else that comes close.

Author: Dom Lawson
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