Ok, so there’s this band called Iron Claw, right? I have to do a review of their album entitled “A Different Game.” You with me? So I read the one sheet and it says that this is the first new music from them in forty years. <blinksrapidly> Forty years… 4-0. 40. I had to put my glasses back on because I could have sworn I read that wrong. So doing some quick maths in my head that means their last new album was in 1972. That makes the time it took Axl to do “Chinese Democracy” seem expeditious.
After such a long time, why put out a new album. I did some digging only to find that Iron Claw never actually put out any albums during their tenure at all. From 1969 to 1974 they played live all around England and Scotland. The cobwebs started to clear in my synapses and slowly the name coalesces into some sort of vague meaning. <snapsfingers> Orange Goblin! Ben Ward! Terrorizor Magazine! Ben mentioned Iron Claw as one of his favourites and included them on his mix tape. Iron Claw‘s “Clawstrophobia” came in at #5. It has a release date of 2009. So more digging. Apparently, Rockadrome put out the disk in 2009 and it was a hit. Music website The Ripple Effect fell in love and pimped it out heavily. So much so, the ageing band members decided to reform and work on new material. Iron Claw went from being underground legends to back on the musical radar.
“A Different Game” has snippets of songs written in 1969 along with tracks from their 1970s live set and a few new offerings. Released in 2011 by Ripple Music, “A Different Game” sports original members Ian McDougall on drums, Jimmy Ronnie on guitar and Alex Wilson helming bass duties. The Scottish lads are joined by local musician Gordon Brown on vocals.
I went into the review with an open mind. Well, the endorsement from Ben Ward of Orange Goblin gives them extra points. However, I wasn’t blown away by the first track ‘What Love Left’. It’s like Orange Goblin-lite and definitely a dated sounding offering. I’d vote this is one of the tracks from the 70s all gussied up. It has the sound and feel of the early Zeppelin albums. ‘Saga’ has some swing and swagger to it. The track has the southern rock feel of the Allman Brothers. ‘The Traveler’ reminds me of Ronnie James Dio / Rainbow ‘Man on a Silver Mountain’. But where ‘Man on a Silver Mountain’ boasts lyrics deep and meaningful, ‘The Traveler’ not so much. They seem a bit forced and at times you are as much at a loss for words as the band were when writing it.
The strength of Iron Claw and of “A Different Game” is definitely the guitar playing. The title track has a great bluesy solo that just lays back. It’s impressive. The over all guitar tone is pleasing to the aural sensibilities. Juxtaposed is the rudimentary drumming. It seems Mr. McDougall is employed to keep the time and little else. Even the drum fills and flourishes are lacklustre and rote. Not to malign a much-loved band that hasn’t been around or even heard from in nigh forty years (with the exception of that one reunion show in, what, 1993) but I honestly don’t see what the hoopla is all about. The songs are listless and uninspiring. The lyrics simplistic and forced. The vocals lack depth and emotion. If I want authentic 70s era southern rock, I’ll pull out the Zeppelin, Skynyrd, and Allman Brothers - bands that continued to work and hone their craft throughout the decades. If I want the more modern yet retro sound I’ll grab the Rival Sons and Southern Train Gypsy. For those in between times, spin some Orange Goblin who have worked tirelessly since 1995.
I guess I shouldn’t go into reviews with any expectations. Nor should I do any research before I listen to the album for the bands I haven’t heard of. I’m not sure if knowing these men haven’t recorded anything in forty years coloured the review or if the album is just that maudlin and mediocre. Despite stand out tracks like “Saga” and “See Them Fall” the album offers the listener very little. If you are one of the baby boomers who saw Iron Claw live forty years ago, then this album offers you a pressing of the band and may be of sentimental value for you. By all means get it and enjoy. If you’ve never heard of them and are curious… don’t be. You aren’t missing anything.