A group of metal guys take a break and form an '80s-style hardcore band. A good time is had by all.
Iron Reagan's second album in two years, The Tyranny of Will, finds the group of metalheads continuing to revel in '80s-style hardcore punk. The bands name-checked as inspirations (Cro-Mags, D.R.I.), will be familiar to longtime fans of the style, but for me the closest comparison was to another side project/supergroup, '80s heroes S.O.D. Sonically, the fit between the two bands isn't exact (Stormtroopers of Death had more thrash in their sound than Iron Reagan), but the story is similar. Both bands found a group of like-minded heavy metal musicians from the same geographic area forming a new band to dabble in hardcore. Both bands reveled in over the top violent lyrics that weren't meant to be taken seriously. And both bands were as much fun to listen to as it was for the members to play in.
The caveat to "fun to listen to" is of course that the listener is already inclined to enjoy hardcore music. It's not such a big deal for fans of Municipal Waste or Darkest Hour (where the bulk of Iron Reagan’s lineup comes from) to slide over to the sloppier, less technical style presented on The Tyranny of Will. It would be a much bigger step for fans of, say, Green Day or Linkin Park to dive right in to Iron Reagan.
The album finds the band blasting through 24 songs in less than 32 minutes, with only four tracks cresting the two-minute mark. There's no room for subtlety with Iron Reagan, and the song titles confirm that. "Eyeball Gore", ostensibly a single, finds vocalist Tony Foresta shouting about all the different ways he wants to see eyeballs mutilated over a galloping drumbeat and a simple riff played by both guitars and the bass. And that's a well thought out idea, at least compared to the handful of tracks that don't go much further than their titles. "Your Kid's an Asshole" and "U Lock the Bike Cop", at 12 seconds and 33 seconds, respectively, are essentially the song title shouted a handful of times over a couple of chords.
But that's a part of what makes Iron Reagan fun. Some songs just don't need to be well-written or thoughtfully arranged, especially with this throwback hardcore style. A few times, though, the band does work a bit harder, and these songs stand out as the record's most interesting. "Tyranny of Will" opens the album with a chugging, mid-tempo guitar riff, played for almost a full minute before Foresta comes in and the band cranks up the speed. When the band slows back down for an actual guitar solo, it's a sloppy mess, but it stands out amongst the album's more basic tracks. "Miserable Failure" is practically a sing along (or at least a shout along), as the narrator reflects on why others consider him a miserable failure.
Occasionally the band's metal roots bleed through into these songs. "Rat Shit" is anchored by a pair of active, heavy riffs that could easily be transferred to a metal context, while "Obsolete Man" finds drummer Ryan Parrish opening the song with blast beats before switching over to a more traditional galloping beat. "Nameless" features some speed metal riffage and an equally fast solo, essentially compressing an entire metal song into a single minute.
The album ends with an epic closer, the four-minute long "Four More Years". It slows down the band's riffing into something oppressively heavy, as Foresta shouts more intelligibly than usual about a politician needing "Four more years / To make the wrong decisions." The mid-song gang vocal shout along "Four more years" perfectly echoes the political crowds of a re-election campaign and gives a tantalizing hint about what Iron Reagan might sound like if they were a bit more serious. But mostly, they're not. These guys are taking a break from metal and clearly are interested in something fun and borderline goofy. They accomplish those modest goals with aplomb.