Monday, August 8, 2011

Iron Claw - Iron Claw (1970-74 scottish heavy rock, 2009 rockadrome official reissue with a wonderful 16-page booklet - MP3 320K and FLAC)

First official release of early 70s Scottish underground heavy rock recordings from this group who were stomping around the UK with the likes of Black Sabbath, Hackensack, Pink Fairies, Juicy Lucy and others from the time, but never released a proper album.

Their name, Iron Claw, was taken from the first line in King Crimson's song "21st Century Schizoid Man". In the beginning, Iron Claw probably became the world's first Black Sabbath tribute band, as they incorporated the entire first Black Sabbath LP and single into their set! As it turns out, Bassist Alex Wilson was the one who unearthed his personal recording of the oldest known concert tape of Black Sabbath, a 1969 gig recorded in Dumfries, Scotland!

As time progressed, Iron Claw's live sets included many originals as well as hanging on to some covers such as War Pigs, Fairies Wear Boots, Wicked World, Green Manalishi and Lady Whisky. This collection of sixteen original studio tracks documents their existence from 1970 thru 1974 and features a wonderful 16-page booklet with extensive liner notes, lyrics and photos!

They have had compilations released before but this one is the best in terms of sound and in packaging. Iron Claw were one of the earliest purveyors of thunderously heavy proto-metal with a early doom vibe.

These guys could play with the best of them, laying down heavy riffs with enough intensity to make Mr. Iommi take note and a bleak beat that predates sludge metal by a number of decades. People still think that "Dismorphophobia" is a actual Iron Claw release but in fact its just a compilation.

Iron Claw crushed everything in their path across the UK from 1969 until 1974. Yet during this time, after recording at many stages throughout their career, they never officially released a single album. Luckily through tape-trading, the band's name was kept alive throughout the 70's up to now where you can get high quality recordings on CD.

Rockadrome has lovingly put together a knock-out package, laying down once and for all a proper homage to a band that never got the justice they deserved during their lifetime.

Complete with liner notes from founding member Alex Wilson, a complete band line-up roster, artist quotes on each song, tons of photos, and, most importantly, 16 giant slabs of heavy early masterpieces of dirty doom influenced metal before doom metal even existed, this is a can't miss package for all fans of heavy psych, proto-metal and the early days of doom rock.

While everyone claims to have found a band as heavy as Sabbath, not many if any bands really come close but Iron Claw are pretty close to the heaviness of Iommi,Butler,Ward and Osbourne. Like most bands from the period, its only the cheap production and poor management that stopped them from being on the same level as Sabbath.

They formed after Alex witnessed Zeppelin playing on their first tour of Britain, the band finally found their direction after hearing Sabbath perform at the Dumfries Youth Club in 1969.

Initially, the band was so enamored with Sabbath that their live set was the entire first Black Sabbath LP plus a couple original tunes! Then slowly, they began to write more of their own material and the real talent of Iron Claw began to emerge.

Featuring a guitar player, Jimmy Ronnie who at 15 already had the riffs, the band career's was full of seriously mind alternating, devastatingly heavy psychedelic blues that was put down on tape in only a few recording sessions.

The CD presents, roughly chronologically, the bulk of Iron Claw's recorded output, and it's a fascinating study of one band's development and perseverance. The first 5 tracks come from what is known as Mark I of the band, featuring the original line-up.

This is by far the most Sabbath derived period of the band but the band didn't rip off Sabbath, they had their own sound as these tracks show. The tracks are low-fi, 4-track recordings that adds an endearing, garage quality to their early brand of doom that is truly ahead of its time.

The track called "Clawstrophobia," is just what the title suggests, a monstrous heavy riff-fest, this is the most Sabbath-esque track on the disc, eerie as anything done by the masters, and worthy of appearing next to "The Wizard," or "Black Sabbath."

This is amazing track when you consider just how young the band were at this time, they were all still teenagers. "Mist Eye," is another Sabbath-y proto-metal riff, with a strong vocals and some savage guitar playing that some bands are still trying to master right up to this day.

"Sabotage," has a kind of jazz intro before launching into a monster of a distorted blues riff, "Crossrocker," is a full-on fuzzed doom assault, while "Skullcrusher," does exactly that.

Each of these are prime examples of the burgeoning heavy metal sound and each stands as a testament to the worthiness of this band as one of the heaviest outfits in their day. Worth buying for these five tracks alone, but the best is yet to come.

Having laid down these mighty platters of raw heaviness, Iron Claw finally met Sabbath, but rather that being embraced as fellow heavy metal pioneers, they were instead hit with a veiled threat of litigation if their early tapes were ever released.

That shows you how much Sabbath was threatened by this young still unknown band. But it also marked the demise of Mark I of the band, the singer leaving in 1971. The band reformed with a new singer and extra guitarist and launched head-long into Mark II of their existence, which quickly morphed to Mark III when that guitarist was asked to leave.

This period, Mark III, heralds the real glory days for the band. Keeping the inherent heaviness in their groove, but lightening up the affair a touch with more blues base, the boys had grown, learned their instruments, and concentrated on songwriting.

"Rock Band Blues," charges like some amphetamine-fueled Deep Purple outtake. New singer Willie Davidson adds a more soul to the band's sound than before. Ronnie once again proves to be one of the most unheralded, unheard guitarists of his time.

His tone and phrasing on his jams here are knock-out mind-boggling! "Pavement Artist," follows a weird version of a drum solo intro into another killer catchy blues riffing tune.

Echoes of Free reside here, or some proto-version of early Whitesnake, this can also be found in "Strait Jacket," "Gonna Be Free," and the band's one and only attempt at a ballad "All I Really Need."

Its this period of the band that should have been recorded and released at the time, if so i am sure we would be talking about Iron Claw in the same way we talk about Sabbath, Purple and Zeppelin. The Mark III version vanished when original drummer Ian McDougall quit.

The new version of the band adopted a more experimental, free form jam sound producing interesting cuts with "Winter," and "Devils" but the original magic was lost and the writing was on the wall that the band would split.

Much praise must go out to Rockadrome for keeping these bands alive, there was so much underrated music in the early 70's that went un-noticed while big name bands stole all the attention.

That has always been one of the biggest crimes in heavy rock history because while the likes of Sabbath,Purple and Zeppelin deserve their place as hard rock kings there was many bands who on their day were just as good.

Iron Claw - Mist Eye:

Track list:

01. Clawstrophobia (05':20")

02. Mist Eye (04':16")

03. Sabotage (05':03")

04. Crossrocker (07':20")

05. Skullcrusher (06':04")

06. Let It Grow (02':52")

07. Rock Band Blues (04':22")

08. Pavement Artist (05':35")

09. Strait Jacket (05':09")

10. Gonna Be Free (03':49")

11. Loving You (02':42")

12. Lightning (03':47")

13. All I Really Need (03':24")

14. Knock Em Dead (03':02")

15. Winter (06':18")

16. Devils (05':34")

Iron Claw:


*Mike Waller (vocals)

*Alex Wilson (bass)

*Jimmy Ronnie (guitar)

*Ian McDougall (drums, percussion)


*Wullie Davidson (lead vocals, flute, harmonica)

*Donald MacLachlan (guitar)

*Alex Wilson (bass)

*Jimmy Ronnie (guitar)

*Ian McDougall (drums, percussion)


*Jimmy Ronnie (guitar)

*Wullie Davidson (lead vocals, flute, harmonica)

*Alex Wilson (bass)

*Ian McDougall (drums, percussion)


*Billy Lyall (Mellotron, piano, saxophone, percussion) [Pilot]


*Wullie Davidson (lead vocals, flute, harmonica)

*Jimmy Ronnie (guitar)

*Alex Wilson (bass)

*Neil Cockayne (drums, percussion)

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