On shuffle: Iroha – Eternal

Songs stumbled upon, songs remembered, songs because why the hell not?

Iroha sound a lot like Jesu. This is perhaps not surprising, led as they are Andy Swan of Final, one of Justin Broadrick of Jesu’s many other projects, as well as featuring Jesu bassist Diarmuid Dalton. It’s an unavoidable comparison and one they did little to swerve, utilising the same blend of crushing guitars and sad little melodies to very similar effect.

This should be a problem. But they sound a lot like the Jesu of Silver – that melancholic, lumbering beast of such beauty and majesty. I’ve waxed ridiculous about how much I love that track and lamented how little of Jesu’s other output really follows the same pattern. If only I’d spent more time listening to Iroha – a band that sound like an alternate universe in which Broadrick doubled down on the mix of shoegazey melodies, neolithic heaviness and sad-eyed whimsy.

I can’t even remember when I finally did stumble over them – I’ve got their records saved on Spotify but I never got around to buying them. I have a vague memory of going down a youtube/Spotify rabbithole one night and getting lost in that cavernous sound. They offer the ideal of what I look for in a lot of heavy music – noise that embraces you, welcomes you. Noise as a place of solace, a place to seek asylum amidst the drudgery of the day, against the unfathomable cruelty of life. It wraps itself around you, this world weary wall of crashing guitar and seething bass. There’s invariably a sad little melody played on keyboards or guitar drifting lightly above the swirl – so simple (anything complex would get lost in the waves of noise) it’s almost childlike, nursery rhyme-esque, which coats it in a sepia wash of longing nostalgia.

And where in many bands there’d be gutteral roaring to contend with – which at best becomes part of that elemental sound, and at worst distract from it – instead it’s the soft, hushed tones of Swan that gently intone amidst the cacophony. Swan, like Broadrick, knows what many purveyors of metal do not – sometimes there is nothing more crushingly heavy in this world than a sigh. The lyrics often sounding like sad little reflections scrawled in notebooks – on Eternal the central refrain comes across like a response to a psychiatrist, a stretch at an explanation. “It’s just a feeling that’s been there all my life…” It’s perfect – capturing nothing and yet suggesting everything, an existence e hampered by one nagging sensation that somehow can never be named.

I’ve no idea if Iroha are still a going concern – I’ll be picking up their criminally cheap self-titled record from their bandcamp page when I have a few quid to spare and it’d be nice to think I might catch them live at some stage. But since I finally picked up that thread from that night they fell into my lap they’ve already provided something much more vital to me – accompanied me on nights of fear and self-loathing, drunken moments of despair and long walks home from disappointments both large and small. Sometimes I think the things we find when we’re at our most lost are the most valuable we have. And amongst the gems I’ve found in those times Eternal is one of the most precious to me.