A few weeks ago I made a quick post in search of some material by Ironside, an early-90's UK "holy terror hardcore" band that I recently discovered thanks to Am I Mean?. I vowed to do a proper post on the band once I got my hands on all of their material, so… here it is! Several people got in touch with me to lend a hand (many thanks, one and all), and among those who contacted me was actually Ironside frontman Richard "Arms" Armitage, so I asked him to provide a little rundown on the band since I've been very sadly in the dark all this time and have very little background to work with here:
Ironside started in 1992 in Bradford with a bunch of longtime skate punks. Our first gig was with Sick of it All at the 1 in 12 Club the first time they ever came over – imagine them playing an anarcho collective. We played a lot around the UK, either with touring US hardcore bands or more importantly with new UK bands like Kito, Solace, Wartorn and Voorhees – all of whom have members still active in hardcore today. We did a couple of Breakdown- and Sheer Terror-influenced demos, then got the "holy terror" thing nailed once Integrity did "Darkness" on the "Only the Strong" 7" compilation.
We played in Belgium later in '92 and blew away all the '88 straightedge kids there, which laid the foundation for the H8000 thing. No one was doing slow, chugging metal with deep vocals and no recognizable straightedge lyrics at the time, except Ironside.
In 1993 we did the "Fragments of the Last Judgement" 7" – our four career best songs. Then a few of us started drinkin' and some original members left for various reasons. I played guitar and sang for awhile, until we got a couple of metal guys in on drums and rhythm guitar. We took the Paradise Lost/Cathedral influences a bit too far and did the "Damn Your Blooded Eyes" 7" in 1994 at Academy Studios, where a lot of the northern doom metal bands recorded back then – My Dying Bride, Anathema, etc. The back cover photo is hilarious: A collection of nightclub bouncers, circus strongmen, and vampires.
Then we went to Europe for a month with Chorus of Disapproval, also in '94, which was the biggest mismatch ever – us listening to Sabbath on the booze, and them not. Good times, but when we got back it was over. I played guitar in Voorhees afterwards, and now in The Horror. It's always cool when people bring up Ironside when I'm touring.
I must agree that the "Fragments of the Last Judgement" 7" (Subjugation Records, 1993) is the band's finest work, but that's not to slag their other output in any way. In fact, I'd argue that the demos (collected on the "Ecstatic Ritual" CD in the mid-90's along with the aforementioned 7") sound even more like early Integrity, right down to that totally Clevo-sounding guitar tone! They definitely seemed to come into their own on the "Fragments…" EP, while "Damn Your Blooded Eyes" 7" (Stormstrike Records, 1994) is indeed more of a drawn out excursion towards doom metal (though it's not entirely a stretch to have envisioned such a progression, really).
I'm still just astounded that I had never even heard of this band prior to this. I mean, seriously, Ironside should totally be mentioned more often in the same breath as Integrity or Mayday or any of those bands that were doing this kind of dark, metallic hardcore in the early-90's, when the whole "holy terror" sound was still in its relative infancy, really. Absolutely criminal. This must be one of the single most underrated bands in the history of all living things, so I really hope this post gets the word out, 'cause I know there are a shitload of people like me out there that would flip over this material if they knew it existed! Here are a couple of tracks to give you a taste, if for some twisted reason you're not sold yet:
Ironside "Fever Pitch"
Ironside "Smothered Conviction"
If you like what you hear, the band's complete discography, which is all out of print and rather hard to come by, is available below:
[DOWNLOAD] Ironside discography (@ Mediafire)
Also thanks to Tom for the following comment on my last little Ironside post, with some more "where are they now" tidbits:
• Arms (singer) went on to play guitar for Voorhees and now plays guitar in The Horror.
• Nick (drums) sang for Unborn (also on Lifeforce Records), played in various Sore Throat lineups, and played in Cracked Cop Skulls (with Napalm Death and Ripcord members, I believe).
• Doug (bass) went on to form Iron Monkey, who did some records for Earache. Last time I saw him he was managing bands like Funeral for a Friend and Raging Speedhorn, or something like that.
• Jim (guitar) went on to form Iron Monkey with Doug, as well as the amazing Hard to Swallow. He now plays in Geriatric Unit with members of Heresy.
• Tom (guitar) played for Baby Harp Seal (Fugazi/Hoover type stuff), who also recorded for Subjugation Records (Ironside's first home); relocated to Germany and played with Battle Royale (toured the US in '05); and now in plays in Cold War (Deep Six Records).