Iron Curtain - Gulag Review

Sometimes there is more to music than just the sum of all it’s various parts. There’s a spirit, an ethos, an attitude, a feel that empowers it to transcend the boundaries of it’s built-in parameters. I am not the world’s biggest proponent of this concept, as I feel it is often times over embellished and misused such as when the Talking Heads are labeled a Punk band just because they played at CBGB’s or how some of Johnny Cash’s songs are described as sad and heartbreaking when they are in major keys and have happy sounding melodies.

But, even I sometimes have to admit that this phenomena is taking place. Such I believe is the case with Iron Curtain’s Gulag, my favorite grind/hardcore record of last year.

Nothing about the Californian band’s sound could even be remotely described as “ground-breaking” or “innovative.” The five piece firmly conforms to the standards the New Wave of Aggro Hardcore bands set forth by bands such as Nails, Harm Done, Ground and Harms Way. And the instrumentation here could really only be described as “rudimentary” at best, with several songs featuring the drummer playing, um, let’s just say “rather loosely.”

Gulag Tracklist:
1. Tear At The Seams 00:44
2. Saviour 01:16
3. Into Dust 00:44
4. Agenda 01:04
5. Kill Them All 01:47
6. No Way Out 00:53
7. Generations 01:24
8. The Great Purge 00:59
9. Void 01:02
10. Cold War Blues 00:43
11. Gulag 00:44
12. Iron Curtain 02:15

Much in the same way that the ratty production value and musical miscues of early Black Metal releases only worked to enhance the misanthropy and coltishness of the songs being played, the sloppiness here really just exacerbates the visceral rage being presented. It’s almost as if this band is just so overcome with ruthless hatred that they NEED to make this music even if they aren’t necessarily exactly virtuosos when it comes to musicianship.

This is not to say there aren’t some badass riffs to be had here. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Opening salvo “Tear At The Seams” features some fine beatdown riffing that leads into a rather memorable two-step. The entire album is littered with breakdowns, slams and even a few fast parts that aren’t too shabby.

Let’s take a minute to talk about album closer Iron Curtain. The entire LP really builds to this moment. Gulag itself is somewhat of a loose concept album focusing on atrocities committed in the Soviet Union during World War II and the constant violation of human rights committed by the Kremlin during that time period. I normally am not a big lyric guy but even I was impressed with the terse, violent verses used here to add a level of hostility to the music. All of this culminates in the money shot that is the opening minute of the last song, all of the bands militant thrashcore riffing condensed into a roller coaster beatdown with the vocalist screaming “LOSING THE WILL TO FIGHT!” It was easily my favorite mosh part of the year and in my opinion, the angriest.

I don’t know what exactly appeals to me about this record so much when so many other similar sounding ones don’t. There is just something here about the music that makes every note feel like it hits viciously hard which is more than I can say about a lot of the technical Grind bands I listen to. I understand why people would have issues with this release but for me, it just works, plain and simple.

For more on Iron Curtain & Gulag, check out the social media links below!

Iron Curtain: Bandcamp