The Iron Roses – S/T
The Iron Roses is the self-titled sophomore album from these American punkrockers, following up on Rebel Songs that was released in 2021 (at that time the band was named Nathan Gray & The Iron Roses).
The opener is also the first single from the album, Screaming for a Change. When I first saw the video I was instantly smitten by the pure energy and also happiness that the band emits, even though the somewhat heavy subject of the song. Perhaps it’s because of Nathan Gray coming out as non-binary prior to this release, and the pure happiness and joy that comes from that. Listening to the song more closely it’s a joy to hear how easily Nathan changes registers and they really have the ability to express emotions through their voice.
My biggest concern was that albeit how awesome that song is, you can’t build an album on only one song. The two following singles Old Guard and Justify the Lies are by no means bad songs, but went past with a little bit less excitement for me when they came out, as compared to Screaming for a Change. Listening to the albums leading up to this text both songs has grown on me. Old Guard oozes of old-school punkrock , both musically and lyrically, and Justify the Lies brings the tempo down a bit, incorporating some light ska-vibes.
Overall The Iron Roses incorporate some ska-influences here and there in the songs throughout the album. This gives some nice variations both in tempo and style, and fits nicely with the band’s sound. Lyrically it’s very much a commentary on capitalism and working class versus the rich, as in Hearts of Fire, Around & ‘Round and Rebel Soul Sound, and the pro-union song Raising Hell, Raising Hope to mention a few. If anyone thought that Nathan’s life-changing decision (if you can call it a decision) would dominate the lyrical themes, they can rest assured that this is a class-war themed album pretty much throughout. It’s a fist in the air towards the establishment and it’s all very well written, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from Nathan, but who feel as if they have had a bit of a re-ignition here.
Becky Fontaine does a nice job of giving some depth to the verses, although doesn’t get that much room to shine for herself, somewhat playing the support role to Nathan most of the time. The band themselves are stellar musicians, sometimes adding a bit more than just background vocals as in The Hustle and Justify the Lies, and everything sounds really tight and has good production values.
The Iron Roses is a really good album that excels both lyrically and musically. Variations in tempo and style, energy en masse, and at times a pretty positive energy despite the subject matter of the songs. I can sometimes feel that much of American punkrock sounds pretty much alike, which could be said of Swedish punk as well, but The Iron Roses manages to stick out in a good way in this regard. Make sure to check out their videos as well as they bring another dimension to the songs.