IROHA - Shepherds & Angels
Andy Swan may not be the youngest guy in the music business, but at least no one can accuse him of being lazy. His career started about thirty years ago with industrial band Final which he co-founded with Justin Broadrick (Napalm Death, Godflesh, Jesu). Soon thereafter he dabbled in dance music, until in 2008 he founded Iroha where he was joined by Dominic Crane on guitar and Diarmuid Dalton on bass.
Shepherds & Angels is already the fourth release by the trio since 2010, following two EPs and one longplayer. Stylistically not that much has changed, according to the never-change-a-winning-time rule. Combining the soaring guitar sweeps of early Nineties shoegaze with monolithic metal templates, and injecting occasional but well placed electronic parts, the band has found a successful formula. For lack of a flesh-and-blood drummer, the beats are programmed, and maybe not overly arousing, but they certainly do the trick.
Iroha’s charm lies in the seemingly antithetical recipe of making bombastic metal rhythm sound fragile, or vice versa, giving soothing shoegazer parts an unexpected heaviness. With the programmed drums doing discreetly their thing in the background, all attention goes to the powerful guitar work of Swan and Crane, who are apt at soaring distorted guitar riffs full of melancholy delay as well as coming up with more forceful guitar riffs. Dalton’s bass guitar is laying down a strong foundation that gives the songs their final momentum.
The first four songs are shorter, all running around six minutes, with the wonderfully mellow You Reap What You Sow standing out in particular. Swan’s hoarse, half-whispered vocals may be a little monotonous over the course of an entire album, but one can’t deny their effectiveness. The final three tracks are longer, between seven and nine minutes, and especially the concluding Denial adds a little difference, as this collaboration with Pyramids of Hydra Head Records comes with less shoegaze and more heaviness.
Like in the past, Iroha once again don’t disappoint and offer a fine slab of a musical hybrid that otherwise is only served in more or less the same way by the even more productive Jesu. I wouldn’t go so far as calling these parallels a rip-off, as Swan and Broadrick share the same musical roots and therefore it is quite logical that they have developed into similar directions. If you like dreamy guitar music with a well dosed and maybe unexpected punch, then Shepherds & Angels with certainly fill you with pleasure.