If only the drums sounded more like cardboard, the rhythm guitars were muddied up, and the vocals were burdened by some inappropriate sound effects, then this latest fix from Iron Reagan might seem 100 percent authentic to the era of underground metal the unit otherwise recaptures with aplomb on this brand-new blast. The lyrics carry a patina of socio-political heft though they are balanced with a humor that will at least momentarily transcend ideologies. Guitar riffs gallop at a pace similar to that which excitable kittens find as they glide across the floor and wave their still-uncoordinated front limbs every which way. The bass parts are meaty, beaty, big and bouncy and the vocals sound like suburban/urban frustration made flesh. Iron Reagan (one part Iron Maiden, one part Ronald Reagan, though the ghost of the shoot ‘em up, blow ‘em sky high flick Iron Eagle seems to loom large there too), doesn’t disappoint on this, its third overall full-length and second for the Relapse imprint.
This is, remember, crossover music, part of a sometimes misunderstood genre that emerged in the 1980s as bands blended the energy and aggression of hardcore with the energy and aggression of thrash metal which, of course, took much of its energy and aggression from punk itself. Anyone who feels like banging out an all-caps response to the previous statement with a more sophisticated and nuanced discussion can have at it, but that’s the gist.
The point being, the music’s aggressive, energetic and offers metallic catharsis with each of its mighty blows. None of the 18 songs cross the threshold of four minutes, and one never makes it to the 10-second mark, both a nod to crossover’s humor and its tendency to make statements in broad, terse strokes not meant for the faint of ear. Coupled with sloganeering choruses (“Dogsnotgods”, “Fuck the Neighbors”) and impassioned, tightly-structured fodder (“Dying World”, the brooding, attitudinal “Crossover Ministry”) and riff gauntlets (“Megachurch”, “Shame Spiral”), these pieces create an experience that recalls metal’s past glories while also setting a template for the future, a place where the need for mosh pit release and ear-piercing rage are likely to provide comfort for the throngs of disenfranchised and downtrodden.
Vocalist Tony Foresta has the perfect barbaric yawp for music of this kind as he spits forth words that are equal parts sermons and nuclear missiles; the twin guitar attack of Mark Bronzino (rhythm) and Landphil Hall (lead) threatens to afflict even the most seasoned air guitarists with a case of carpal tunnel and the aforementioned bass attack of Rob Skotis will grab you by the lower intestines and shake you like one of those radioactive wolves living in the post-Chernobyl wastelands of Russia as Ryan Parrish’s drums pummel all doubters into a state of agonizing despair that will finally see them throwing their hands in the air and proclaiming the ultimate defeat.
The record probably isn’t perfect to some ears: There will be complaints about the short, flashes of song, others will grouse that this is a group that plays a genre to the hilt rather than focusing on writing songs that could appeal to a wider listening audience. That ain’t crossover, though, and Iron Reagan’s uncompromising vision and execution of the mosh pit American dream places the Virginia quintet in a position of power, a place where this lot can show the less experienced and less focused bands how it’s all done. Subtlety and refinement have never been the point in this genre and Iron Reagan captures all the best parts (and then some) that crossover music has to offer.
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