The first thing you’ll likely notice upon jumping into Curse of the Sky is a fairly different approach to production; the overall sound here is bass-forward, pleasantly cushy and not unlike something you might expect to hear bouncing around a witch’s cauldron as she conjures a plume of swirling smoke that allows her to see through the eyes of her harpy spies. It whiffs of ancient times, which suits Iron Griffin’s method of creating a form of heavy metal born during an age when electricity existed only through sorcery.
The second thing you’ll likely notice upon jumping into Curse of the Sky is holy shit, where has Maija Tiljander been hiding, and why has the Finnish metal scene waited this long to bring her under a spotlight. No offense to Toni Pentikänen, who provided a very admirable “helmed fighter” approach to the vocals on Iron Griffin’s 2017 EP, but Maija brings an entirely new level of resilience and force to the table here. She’s an ideal collision between Valeria—who sits shoulder-to-shoulder with Crom at the feasting table—and Ann Wilson, which essentially means she’ll run you through if you’re one of those few remaining suckers who assumes women vocalists in metal are mostly limited to lace, corsets and symphonic goth.
Once the above two elements settle in, the fundamental intention of Curse of the Sky really begins to take shape: a bare-bones epic allowing passage to an era when iron ruled the land, and those who commanded its strength in the most dominant manner became blessed champions. You like swords, right? I mean, I assume any eyes reading these words belong to humans, and humans generally love swords. Put a well crafted sword into the hands of a pacifist and suddenly thoughts of chaining themselves to a 500 year-old oak become eclipsed with visions of challenging a bulldozer driver by using a strong guard stance. Put briefly, Iron Griffin create a heavy metal soundtrack that celebrates humankind’s covenant with steel.
“Dawn of Struggle” is one of the more charged cuts on the record, and everything about it just belts—the bass, drums and six string gallop together at a clip that damn-near travels into speed metal terrain. The title track comes close to achieving a similar pace, but it does so in a more hard rockin’, Rocka Rolla style that involves a greater emphasis on swagger / strut.
Should you feel less about yourself if an album like Curse of the Sky fails to grab you, while Game of Thrones’ swordplay never fails to bronze your nipples? Probably…not? Clearly, a love of all things medieval does not demand a kinship with Sword & Sorcery Metal; I’m sure there are people out there listening to Post Malone while reading The Farseer Trilogy.
Of course, a strong possibility exists that you would love a band like Iron Griffin if you’re also the type who insists on stopping at the ren faire gift shoppe, but why trust a mangy old dog like me when it comes to deciding what sort music should or should not be considered exciting. And for that matter, why trust anyone about anything, especially when a prize as true as steel exists. To paraphrase an old hero: “No one in this world can you trust. Not men. Not women. Not beasts… [Steel], you can trust.”
Iron Griffin is here to throw a little more steel into our ordinary lives.