They’ve undergone a few lineup changes since the release of their 2009 Small Stone debut, Indian Ladder, but Albany, New York’s Ironweed have managed to maintain the tightness and the heaviness of that first album and even develop it some on the follow-up, Your World of Tomorrow. A rallying cry against the post-modern dystopia in which we live, the nine-cut, 40-minute full-length is rife with crisp songwriting, clear presentation and an overall straightforward style that the four-piece is well suited to. As per the Small Stone norm, tracking and mixing was handled by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios in Massachusetts, and as per his norm, there’s no sacrifice of the band’s formidable live energy in the name of getting a professional sound. Your World of Tomorrow is heavy rock for heavy rockers, and I know there are plenty out there who will find satisfaction in the aggression and payoff these songs have to offer.
Ironweed trace their roots back to Albany outfit Greatdayforup, of which guitarist Mike Vitali and bassist Brendan Slater were members. I wasn’t a huge fan of either Greatdayforup or the first Ironweed record, and even Your World of Tomorrow has a couple moments on it that feel contrived: the commercial balladry in the opening section of “And the New Slaves” and the ‘80s metal chorus of centerpiece track “Awaken” come most immediately to mind. Yet, for every down, there’s an equal and opposite up: The swagger of “Messenger” is a heavy and unmistakable highlight of the album, and the earlier, faster-paced “The Lucky Ones” features Your World of Tomorrow’s best scorching guitar lead and chorus alike. “Heavy Crowns,” which pops up later, finds vocalist/guitarist Jeff Andrews playing up the considerable Solace influence in his singing to great effect, as does opener “Now Stronger,” but there’s something decidedly nü-metal in the chorus riff of that song (it can be a fine like sometimes), and it’s just one of the tradeoffs I find myself making while listening to Ironweed’s latest. The band – rounded out by the hefty drum work of newcomer Dan Dinsmore — is solid on a songwriting level, and it’s easy to appreciate what they’re going for on Your World of Tomorrow, but there are some misfires to go along with the hits as the album plays out.
On the whole, the record has a lot going for it: there’s the agreeable concept, awesome Alexander Von Wieding artwork, Benny Grotto production, well-honed songs, tight performances and a few memorable tracks. But when it comes to what I want to hear, Ironweed has yet to change my mind, and if I want quality new-school heavy rock from Small Stone, I’m invariably going to reach for Gozu or Lo-Pan first – not to mention Solace, who really do come across as chief instigators even on the shorter “Red Circles” or closer “A Graceful Death,” which follows. I respect the work Ironweed obviously puts into what they do, but even the most gripping passages of Your World of Tomorrow – “The Lucky Ones” and “Enduring Snakes” – don’t seem to hold my attention as much as they feel like they should. That said, I’ll make the point to say again that Ironweed are a talented and tight group and that these songs will no doubt find welcome in many ears among those in the heavy underground. I know I’ve said it before, but not everything is going to work for every listener, and I guess that’s just what’s going on here. I don’t hate it, I’m not violently opposed to it or offended by it, but it gets a firm “meh,” and among such indispensible other output from the label, it’s not something I see myself revisiting. You might feel differently, and if you haven’t heard Ironweed before, I’d still recommend checking them out so you can find out for yourself where you stand.Albany, Ironweed, New York, Small Stone