Interview: Iron Void

Epic Metal, how do you define it? Does one only look at a band’s whole discography, or is one epic song enough? When you take a look at the English three-piece Iron Void, one sees a Doom outfit devoted to the traditional style without a focus on epicness. Yet, sometimes there are topics, that just yearn for epic tunes and, therefore, when you find out about an album called Excalibur you can be dead certain that it will be epic! So when I stumbled over Iron Void’s latest album in early 2019 I knew immediately that it would be my cup of tea. And I should not be disappointed. Excalibur keeps its promise and delivers an epic adventure packed with musical highlights like »The Coming of a King«, »Avalon« and one of my favourite songs of the last years, »Lancelot of the Lake«! As I fell in love with this album, I really wanted to know what the story behind it was and what plans Iron Void had for the future. Luckily, the band was fond of the idea and, thus, the time has come to present to you: IRON VOID! – Divine Victim

Divine Victim: Hey guys, thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you. How are you doing? Did this damn pandemic have a big impact on you and your plans for the year?

Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale (Bass / Vocals): We’re good, thanks, hope you are well too! We were quite lucky really because we played quite a few international shows last year as we knew Brexit was approaching and tried to take advantage of the situation before things changed in terms of official paperwork, etc. We played our final show in support of the Excalibur album at Hard Metal Fest in Portugal in January 2020. We’d already planned to have a rest for a couple of months and then start writing the next album, entitled IV. Fortunately, we didn’t have any gigs booked apart from 1 UK show which we had to cancel. We wanted to write the new album and still play some UK shows but the pandemic obviously put a stop to that. We’ve been writing the new album since March, mainly working on it from home although we have been rehearsing again recently after an imposed break of 7 months due to COVID restrictions. We’ve completed writing the album now and we intend to record in Easter 2021 at Foel Studio, once again with Chris Fielding at the helm.

Steve Wilson (Guitars / Vocals): It has been frustrating not playing live, but it has given us time to focus on writing. It has coloured some of the songs in places but many of the riffs were ready last year. We just needed to develop them into songs. I’m hoping we can come back and play live again soon and play the new material and some old classics.

Scott Naylor (Drums): COVID utterly leveled any live plans of ours for 2020 and the fallout has left most of the UK live infrastructure in a weakened state. Hopefully next year will allow more public gatherings of significant numbers and venues in both the UK and further afield internationally can get back to being shook to the foundations by audience-starved musicians again soon.    

When looking up your bands history one can see that you already existed between 1998 and 2000 but only started releasing stuff in 2008. What can you tell us about the past of Iron Void?

Sealey: I formed the band with guitarist Andy Whittaker (Solstice, ex-The Lamp of Thoth) in November 1998 with the intention of creating an old school Doom Metal band worshipping at the altar of Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Trouble, Cathedral and The Obsessed, mixed with classic NWOBHM such as early Iron Maiden, Witchfinder General and Pagan Altar. The original line-up played around 16 gigs before disbanding in 2000. We were supposed to record a demo which was going to be entitled Spell of Ruin, but this never materialized. I spent the next 8 years playing in various other bands, including Black Maria, Tomb, Sermon of Hypocrisy and Scion, working at improving my playing speed and abilities. In 2007 I joined Steve in So Mortal Be which featured ex-Iron Void drummer, Russ Thompson on guitar. Russ left not long after and we started playing some old Iron Void songs and Diz, the original Iron Void drummer joined us so we changed the name to Iron Void and worked on recording and extensive gigging, mainly in the UK at this point. And the rest, as they say, is history…

It is no secret that you devoted yourself to old-school Doom Metal. What makes Doom so special to you and what motivated you to form a true Doom Metal band?

Sealey: Doom is my favourite form of Metal and it was the original version, the blueprint for Metal as conceived by Black Sabbath. Sabbath are my favourite band and being born and bred in Birmingham makes me even prouder of my musical heritage. I do love other Metal styles, mainly Death, Black and Thrash but Doom remains the heaviest and emotionally honest form of all Metal styles for me. It’s also rooted in the Blues and I’m a massive Blues music fan too. Andy Whittaker and I shared a mutual love for true Doom Metal bands such as Sabbath (of course!), Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Trouble, Cathedral, The Obsessed, Candlemass, Iron Man, Witchfinder General, Pagan Altar, etc. which we wanted to merge with the style of the first 2 Iron Maiden albums! We’ve pretty much kept that style throughout our career whilst refining our sound and improving our songwriting ability over the years.

Adding on to that: What are your favourite bands? Are all of them Doom bands? What other genres do you enjoy the most?

Sealey: I like so many bands, it’s hard to say but as mentioned previously, Sabbath are my all-time favourite band but I also love Judas Priest, Motörhead, Thin Lizzy, Free, Iron Maiden, KISS, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, Slayer, Pantera, C.O.C., Venom, Mercyful Fate, Celtic Frost, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Van Halen, Scorpions, UFO, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Trouble, Cathedral, Electric Wizard, Sleep, The Obsessed, Candlemass, Witchfinder General, Pagan Altar, Quartz, Trespass, Manilla Road, The Gates of Slumber, Burning Witch, Witchcraft, all Maryland Doom bands and I also love old school Death Metal such as Autopsy, Morbid Angel, Death, Obituary, Suffocation, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Entombed, Dismember, etc. I love the Blues too and I’m a big fan of The Beatles. I do listen to all kinds of music, I was listening to Gregorian Chants this morning and I’m listening to Miles Davis now! Ha, ha!

Steve: It’s a similar list for me, although I would take KISS and Scorpions out in terms of influences. I didn’t listen to them much when I was getting into music. I would go for Sabbath over The Beatles, but I do like their early stuff when they had mop tops! Add on some cult film and horror soundtracks and I will be happy. They have a creepy atmosphere that finds its way into our riffs.

Scott: I’ve no particular favourite genre, nor band. Your tastes are your experiences, so why deny yourself anything at the audial banquet? Doom, Black Metal, Death Metal, Anarcho/Post-Punk/Goth/Deathrock, Thrash, Industrial, Shoegaze, Glam, AoR top shelf cheddar, 50’s big band, Blues, 70’s psych & prog, Jazz,  Classical, Northern Soul, Drum & Bass, it’s all art of a form and will influence how you build the individual sound you contribute to any band you’re in.

Steve, Scott, Sealey Credit: Steve Walton

Is the spirit of Doom still alive? How would you describe the current Doom Metal scene? Can new bands in your opinion live up to the quality of the olden days?

Sealey: I definitely feel like the spirit of Doom is still alive and well! There are some fantastic newer bands such as Conviction, Dirty Grave, Gévaudan, Cardinals Folly, The Spirit Cabinet and Purification to name a few of my current favourites. Internationally, Doom is more recognised than it’s ever been and there are many festivals that promote this particular style, so I think the scene is pretty healthy. We just need to get rid of this damn pandemic so we can «Doom Over The World» again!

Steve: I think we could see some of the trendier bands dropping off the radar or changing their sound, but there will always be a few diehards that weather the storms. We don’t really pay attention to passing trends and it’s got to the point now where I don’t know what’s popular music-wise even within our own sub-genre. I’ll still be listening to Iron Maiden and Cathedral same as I did as a teenager.

Scott: The new blood will establish themselves with time, the old guard will continue to offer up provocative material and the boundaries of the genre(s) shall continue to expand. Quality music will persevere. Convocation, Assumption & Hanging Garden have all been firing out some utter brilliance of late.

With your latest album Excalibur (what an EPIC title!!!), released in 2018, you undertook a little shift in style implementing more epic elements into you sound. How did it come to this? And why did you choose the Arthurian legend as a concept for this album?

Sealey: When we were writing the album we naturally started writing more epic riffs and the subject matter influenced this. We also embraced English folk elements in some of the songs. Some of our initial ideas were a bit bolder as we originally suggested having female backing vocals and incorporating medieval instruments such as the Lute but we decided against this in the end as we thought it would be a step too far and we didn’t want to alienate our established fanbase. We wanted the album to be fundamentally Doom Metal but with additional elements to help narrate the story and mirror the subject matter. I think we originally thought about Excalibur being our second album but we decided against it as we wanted to establish ourselves first before doing a full blown concept album! I grew up with the Arthurian Legends as my Father used to read the stories to me as a child. Excalibur is one of my favourite films and I visited Tintagel in Cornwall (the alleged birthplace of King Arthur) over 10 years ago with my ex- girlfriend and I was blown away by the dramatic beauty of the place and left feeling very much inspired. I told Steve I wanted to write a song based on the legends and then we both realised just one song really wouldn’t do the story justice and it grew from that into the idea of a concept album based on the film and various Arthurian literary sources.

Steve: We had just changed drummers prior to writing Excalibur, so that helped us to get that signature sound. Richard (Maw, ex-Drummer) brought an appreciation of drummers like Nicko McBrain and Vinnie Appice which helped us to achieve more of an epic doom sound. The subject matter lends itself to metal, too, which helped inspire us. We had nine songs by pure chance and I realised that we had nine songs for nine moons – no more needed.

As I really liked your latest album, one thing that really interests me, is whether you plan to keep that approach or plan to go back to your original sound?

Sealey: IV will be a return to more traditional Doom Metal, there aren’t really any epic influences this time around. We wanted to make a conscious decision to go for a rougher sound than Excalibur, so we’ll see how that works out when we record it. There are some 70’s Hard Rock influences too and this is the first album to feature Scott on drums so it’s definitely going to be different to the previous album but in a good way. We don’t want to repeat ourselves but we are a Doom Metal band at heart and I think this album is one of our darkest yet which reflects the times we’re living in to a degree.

Steve: It’s definitely still dark and doomy. There are a few epic moments to watch out for and a range of tempos. I think we’ve simplified things a bit but Scott may disagree with that given some of the drum parts. They might not be as easy as me and Sealey think!

Scott: The drums for the new release are different, good & easy, you heard it here first.

Can you tell us a little bit about the writing process of the new album?

Sealey: Well, IV is the first album that we’ve written remotely utilising technology which had its benefits but also its downsides too. The technology nowadays allows you to share ideas quickly with bandmates and we initially started with Steve and I recording riff videos so we could learn each other’s riffs. We then made basic demos for Scott to add his drums. Due to COVID restrictions we couldn’t actually meet up to jam which really started to piss me off after a while because I live to play live and jamming in the same room you come up with stuff you couldn’t imagine playing in your bedroom at home. There were a couple of songs which we had to iron out in the rehearsal room where we struggled to convey the ideas via home-made demos. Overall though, the writing process worked this way so we’ll probably write the next album in much the same way I think. It’s definitely not a concept album this time around, some of the songs express our thoughts and feelings regarding the world right now and others are more rooted in classic doom subject matter and there’s a song based on a classic Hammer Horror film. I think this album is quite dark but I think people will like it.

Steve: We’ve had to pass ideas back and forth online more than we normally would. I usually record demos at home with basic programmed drum parts but we’ve usually had more jam time than this. Writing and arranging remotely was a challenge but things soon came together once we started rehearsing. Lyrically, we’re covering our signature themes, ranging from Hammer horror to politics and the macabre side of life, hopefully in a new and interesting way. We definitely haven’t made Excalibur II.

Scott: Being in a room and jamming things out is always the ideal, but it’s reassuring to know there are ways of doing things remotely, even during the sluggish collapse of society. The folder management though….

I personally want this year to be over as soon as possible. What are your plans for after the pandemic and the release of your new album? Are there any specific festivals you would like to play on one day?

Sealey: We plan to record IV in Easter 2021 and after that we want to make a music video for one of the songs. We’re hoping the album will be released in the latter half of 2021 or at the latest early 2022. By then we’re hoping we’ll be able to play gigs again without all the current restrictions. We’d like to play more shows in the UK and Europe and we’d also like to travel further afield if possible. We’d love to play Hammer of Doom again and it’d be cool to play the Maryland Doom Fest maybe one day. Our fans keep asking us to appear at Bloodstock, too!

Steve: There’s more of Europe and Scandinavia to get through and of course a UK fest would be nice, ideally with a decent timeslot. I’ve no doubt we’ll get there in the end. I’d like to play a big gig or festival in Japan, too. That’s an ambition of mine. We must have some fans out there, but I’m not sure how many.

Scott: Hopefully more of the aforementioned Scandinavia and Europe, the USA, some more widespread UK gigs and hopefully we’ll find the right opportunity/offer to doom the East. Perhaps not all of them next year, but we’re fairly keen to get back out and playing again

Thanks again guys. I can’t wait for the new album but until then I will listen to Excalibur! Stay safe!

Sealey: Thanks for the interview, Aidan, and best of luck with your blog. Until the new album is released I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank our fans for their continued support and DOOM ON!!

Steve: Thanks! We will be back soon!

Scott: Cheers!

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