Occasionally, when reviewing records, I receive one that really exceeds my expectations. Such an album is Iron Mountain’s Unum. To give a soundbite description, it is post-metal meets Irish folk, psychedelic and prog, but that only begins the first steps on the journey to describe a band that have a huge, expansive, truly original and inspiring sound.
Unum works well as a body of work, the kind of record you need to put on the turntable and totally immerse yourself in. Like all good art, it should be enjoyed without distraction: this is not mindless i-pod music.
With opening track ‘Bonfires’, I am struck by images of Samhain, of The Wicker Man; imagine the ’28 Days Later’ soundtrack played by Horslips, and you are only half-way there. The juxtaposition of heavy cosmic emotive riffs with the traditional Irish uilleann pipes is truly breathtaking. This is not pro-tooled music; this is music as a living breathing organic entity, each note, riff, melody, and sound given the space to breath. And then the track really takes off.
Ray Murphy providing a solid, fluid drumming foundation for the track, working in harmony with Steve Hughes on bass while Damien Mullane provides a rock solid spine on the guitar, coming across as an Irish Iommi. Matt Bashford contributes a variety of instrumentation including the aforementioned uillean pipes, whistle, and Native American flute. Finally, Ronan Ryan provides yet more flute. Together, all five, along with some very talented guests (Pat Mangan on fiddle, Steve Hanks on saxophone and clarinet, Shannon Darby on violin, Dee Dermody on saxophone and Karen Hickey on fiddle) produce very heartfelt, stirring original music.
Immersive is the word that comes to mind, in the sense of Pink Floyd, the kind of music that really acts in a psychedelic sense, drawing the listener to the worlds invoked.
‘Enthralldom’ is like Mastodon providing a soundtrack for The Táin, shades too of classic Thin Lizzy, except that Iron Mountain (as befits such a massively monickered band) sound bigger than all those bands, at once orchestral and large and yet with the same organic feel you get watching folk music in a proper Irish pub. Just when you think you have the song nailed, another part played on a different instrument arises, thus you have Damien’s intense spectrally dense riffs working with the flute.
‘Blitz’, with its use of saxophone invokes happy memories of Lemmy-era Hawkwind. At 5:46, this track could be Unum’s single, so to speak, and yet it seems pleasingly longer, as though it has, in the manner of the aforementioned Hawkwind, bent and warped the normal rules of space and time. You could say it has all Iron Mountain’s special traits on one track.
Eastern-sounding melodies pervade ‘Powow’, but it also invokes images to me of the Wild West. It has that wind-swept haunted feel. It shows the same kind of progressive fearlessness shown by Enslaved.
Unum ends in fine style with the lengthy ‘Opium’, which lives up to its name, having a wild, psychedelic atmosphere. Indeed, here the musicians are musical shamans, drawing forth from deep inside themselves to conjure and create their own unique sonic alchemy. This is like Neurosis playing traditional music.
I must give special mention and praise to Colon Bolger who has provided the most amazing original images for the album sleeve this side of Paul Romano.
I would love to see Iron Mountain play live, where in such a free-form environment I might really see their music scale new heights.
Overall, a superb, original and uplifting album, one that would appeal to any fans of the above-mentioned bands.
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Sleeve artist Colin Bolger contact: firstname.lastname@example.org