(Translated from Norwegian) I think this is a debut, but am unsure, even after trawling the net. It does not matter anyway. What is important, however, is that "Murder Mountain" sails up as one of the strongest country records we will lead this year. He even refers to his music as "goth-country", and he is launched as a mix of Nick Cave and Steve Earle, but I do not know how much I agree, without it meaning anything. What matters, however, is that this album is a solid album that really makes it cool down my back in a (in a positive way), and where I myself get strong associations to both The Gun Club (the shabby steel guitars!) as Roger Alan Wade (for those who remember him) and a young Springsteen. The songs are written in pandemic rage, Trump rage and grief rage due to the fact that his father died during the album's creation, and the nerves hang thick on the outside of every single song and tremble. The crying steel guitars accompany the songs perfectly, and so effectively that it is impossible not to be touched emotionally. The opening and title track is of the purely epic kind, a song I have heard so many times that I already feel its ehhh… durability. It is of the type you want to turn on eleven, stand in the middle of the floor, keep your arms out and just float through the room. God help, it's so good. Festivals are booking him now. Until the summer of 2023 or when the hell it's allowed again. In the meantime, we have the cultural vaccine here. Raw strong. Totally fucking eminent.
Recorded in his home studio in Phoenix, Arizona, during the 2020 Pandemic, Murder Mountain by Johnny Ironsights is an album of songs that burn like a fuse towards what you know is an inevitable destruction.
Outlaw Country meets in your face Punk, tinged with an ash of slow burn Gothic-Americana.
Less of a mash-up, more of a retooling.
The title track, “Murder Mountain,” is a cinematic crime-infested story of isolationism and drugs. It would work wonderfully as a soundtrack to a film such as Winter’s Bone, and is perfect as the kick-off single for the album, yet my ears keep going back to “Three Nickels for a Pack of Smokes,” with it’s warm nostalgia and playful melody.
“Before the Quake (Summer of ’95)” tells a tale of friendship, open mic nights, and teenage dreams.
Nostalgia without the novelty.
Ironsights’ voice, big and bellows-like, may be the closest Americana has to the rocker Meatloaf; a voice which envelops the songs, strengthening them, enriching them. Ironsights has big ideas and isn’t afraid to chase them in a song. True tales of criminality, hopelessness, memories, translated into verse. Fearlessness is one of the best tools a songwriter can have, and Ironsights knows it.
In the closing song, “When I’m Gone, When I’m Dead” Ironsights exclaims
“Like birds trying to fly with broken feathers,”
and I wonder: Is he wishing or invoking?
Drama is no stranger to popular music, as death has long been a part of folk music. Ironsights is doing an admirable job of keeping up the tradition.
If I have any complaints about Murder Mountain it would be that Ironsights’ punchy vocals can get a little tiresome, and as much as I love a good pedal steel, it could use a rest on a few of these tunes (a bit meandering – ‘less is more’?)
Yet Ironsights does have a way with words and storytelling that causes many of these songs to rise way past any perceived musical faults.
Review? The legendary Roy Peak
Released March 5th 2021