Can Iron Monkey's return live up to their legacy?
One of the 90s’ most revered – and feared – UK bands, Iron Monkey’s trail of destruction ended in recrimination and tragedy. Will their return live up to the hype?
“I’ll tell you why I’m doing this. I wrote almost 90% of all the fucking Iron Monkey songs anyway. Those fucking songs are mine. Half the lyrics are mine. I’m essentially the core of that band so what I choose to do with Iron Monkey is up to me and it’s got fuck-all to do with anyone else. If I want to shove this band up my arse, I fucking will. I’m being serious. There’s definitely a lot of ‘fuck you’ involved in it.”
Formed in Nottingham in 1994, Iron Monkey were initially hailed as the UK’s robust response to the sludge metal sound propagated by Eyehategod and Grief. It soon became apparent that they were much more than that, and the next five years saw the band propelled breathlessly forward, thanks to the sheer monstrous power of their two albums and an unwavering reputation as a ferocious and authentically unnerving live act. The sight of vocalist Johnny Morrow lumbering menacingly around the stage, bottle of cooking sherry in hand, vomiting out grotesque, surreal diatribes over some of the biggest riffs ever penned will linger long in the memory of anyone who saw the band first time round. Iron Monkey split in 1999, reportedly amid acrimonious disputes with their record label Earache and after a terminal breakdown in communication between the band’s five members.
Everyone involved has gone on to make music with other bands and under various guises, but the tragic death of Johnny Morrow in 2002 seemed like a definitive full stop at the end of the band’s story. As a result, the recent news that founder member and guitarist Jim Rushby had resurrected Iron Monkey with a new lineup caused the internet – or at least those parts of it sensibly concerned with heavy music – to explode. Not surprisingly, opinion seems divided between those celebrating the news and those keen to dismiss the idea as some cynical money-grab. Pleasingly, Jim really couldn’t give a shit.
“All the original crew and the original bands from first time round, they’re all behind us,” he states. “We’ve got a load of new people who are behind us, too. There’s just a bunch of people talking shit. Fucking posers. We’ve got haters, which I like! It’s a buzz. We’ve always had desire to annoy people. That’s part of the ethos and the aesthetic of the band. There was no huge fucking plan. I was just messing around with riffs, it turned into this, let’s go and piss some people off and that’s it.”