Donít let the name Iowaska fool you. This band has absolutely
nothing to do with either Iowa or ska. This is a very British, and
very Black Sabbath/Hawkwind-esque "space rock" four-piece from Essex, England.
On first listen, I found this album almost comical. The hollow, heavily
accented vocals of lead singer Sam (female), and the lyrical references
to pagans and Earth mothers and the like, lent the album a distinct Spinal Tap
feel. Remember that scene where the band dances around the miniature
model of Stonehenge? Oh, never mind.
Once I got past that, however, I found the music darkly compelling.
Blending the heavy guitar riffage of Black Sabbath with the same kind of
mystical eeriness I associate with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Iowaska makes
an intense sort of pagan rock. "Modranicht", the album's first song,
opens with a voiceover from Sam about women, witchcraft and the worship of
Diana, then erupts into some kind of latter day ritual hymn (on speed).
"Out Of My Head" is a great dreamscape of washing cymbals and echoey vocals -- at once the most "space rock" and the most Siouxsie-like song on the
"Mother Earth" is a sludgy environmentalist indictment. While the song
has a great heavy groove, I find the chorus of "destroying the
planet/destroying the trees/destroying the future/spreading disease" almost
laughably simplistic. Politics in rock have never bothered me; hey, Iím a
Dead Kennedys fan! But lyrics like that, coupled with the heavily accented
vocals, are occasionally jarring for me, lending the songs more of a
Monty Python tone than a Poly Styrene one.
What I like best about this album is the blending of punk, proto-metal and
Samís feminine touch. I donít mean to knock her vocals, because she
definitely has a powerful voice. There arenít a lot of women in hard rock,
and her influence in the songs is a welcome change from alternatives like
Kittie and Gwen Stefani.