Hailing from the UK, doom-metal-trio Iron Void are back with their newest album, Excalibur. The album, being the third released since 2014, boasts to provide an engaging, narratively-driven tale of medieval fantasy over the backdrop of a doom metal album, having supposedly been inspired by the early works of Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus and Pentagram.

The forty-eight minute, nine-track album opens with a repeated Celtic chant that reminds you that you are diving head-first into a themed album. Following the chant is the introduction of an acoustic guitar, playing the riff which will be exceedingly predominant throughout the remainder of Dragon’s Breath. While ticking all the boxes to fit snuggly within the Doom Metal genre, Dragon’s Breath feels to be lacking in creativity, almost fitting into the genre as more of a stereotype rather than an archetype.

The Coming of a King and Lancelot of the Lake are far more up-beat doom metal tracks than Dragon’s Breath, being more like Opus Eponymous-era Ghost than early Sabbath. Though being melodic and well structured, the songs definitely struggle due to production quality, with the guitar being so loud and muddy in comparison to the vocal and drum layers that it becomes very difficult to understand the narrative the lyrics are depicting.

Somewhat ironically, Forbidden Love, the fourth track off Excalibur, manages to be the most bass-heavy on the album while also retaining the clearest mix. As far as the lyrical content goes, the track depicts a kingdom in strife due to a case of forbidden love, which causes turmoil across the land. The melody of the song seems to be shared across all instruments, with the bass line, guitar line and vocals all being somewhat synchronized. This has been something that has carried through most of the songs thus far into the album and, though it does reinforce one melodic theme, it reduces the potential to create more interest through counter-melodies.

Five tracks in and The Enemy Within makes the biggest crutch that this album has as obvious as sin. As mentioned previously, Excalibur feels as though it is more of a stereotypical Doom Metal album rather than bringing anything new to the genre, and The Enemy Within solidifies that attitude. The Enemy Within begins in perhaps the most generic fashion, with a simple guitar riff (which is hard to distinguish from the other riffs on the album) establishing a melody for every other layer to match. The thing that truly damns The Enemy Within is the way in which it is so unashamedly trying to be Iron Man, which isn’t an inherently bad thing, but if somebody were wanting to listen to Black Sabbath, they should just listen to Black Sabbath.

The Grail Quest is arguably the best song off of Excalibur, having enough melodic variety over its five-minute run-time to remain relatively interesting. Though it is plagued by the same ‘everybody needs to use the same melody at the same time’ problems of the other songs, there are enough changes in melody throughout the song for it to remain interesting. It doesn’t just feel like a B-Grade Sabbath track. The same can also be said for A Dream to Some, A Nightmare to Others, which is probably the most anthem-like track off of Excalibur.

The Death of Arthur is the penultimate track of Excalibur. Clocking in at just over seven and a half minutes, it is certainly a behemoth of a song. Thankfully, the song steers away from being bland by being relatively diverse in both melodic content and dynamics, making it one of the most interesting tracks from the album.  The song also feels as though it were trying to edge away from being a generic track, showing that Iron Void have the potential to write unique content without having to stray away from Doom Metal.

 

Avalon is a sombre song about the experiences of a Kings’ soul once they have been taken down in battle. The lyrics of Avalon are the strong-point, with the narrative almost taking preference over the musical content of the song. Avalon almost passes as one of the strongest songs off Excalibur based on the merit of the lyrics alone, however, at around the halfway point, the lyrics repeat, making what had the potential to be an absolute powerhouse of a ballad feel lazy.

Overall, Excalibur feels as though it were a passion project made to be homage to the likes of Black Sabbath. Being too heavily reliant on tropes of the genre, Excalibur flops on its own merits and leaves a lot to be desired.

Excalibur can be streamed everywhere from October 26, and purchased through