Iron Void with Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale, Steve Wilson
Art: Goatess Doomwych, Annick Giroux
Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale initially founded Iron Void in November 1998 to create an old-school Doom Metal band worshipping at the altar of doom legends such as Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Trouble, The Obsessed, Iron Man, Revelation, Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General & Cathedral with a strong NWOBHM influence. The band reformed in 2008, with the current line-up consisting of Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale (Bass & Vocals), Steve Wilson (Guitars & Vocals) & Scott Naylor (Drums). With three full-length albums and 1 EP under their collective (bullet) belts, they recently released their fourth album, ‘IV’, via Shadow Kingdom Records in January 2023.
HMA: How would you describe yours?
Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale: We describe our music as True Doom Metal. We’ve used this term since the very early days when we formed in 1998. The initial idea when I started the band with Andy Whittaker, Guitars (Solstice, ex-The Lamp of Thoth, ex-Iron Void) was to create a traditional Doom Metal band paying homage to our favourite Doom Metal bands. Andy suggested we mix this with the feel and vibe of the first two Iron Maiden albums, and I immediately thought this was a great idea! I’ve been an N.W.O.B.H.M. fan since my early teens when Mr. Ulrich introduced me to the genre. We’ve remained true to this ideal throughout our 25-year career thus far whilst aiming to improve our musicianship and the production quality of each successive album. Steve and I are Maryland Doom devotees, which definitely flavors our sound, and we’re also big fans of bands like Judas Priest, Motorhead, and classic Metal in general. Our music is very important to us, and we devote much time and energy to it. It’s truly a labor of love.
HMA: What can you tell us about your new record?
Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale: Our last album, ‘Excalibur’, was a concept record based on the film of the same name, Le Morte d’Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory and the Arthurian legends. We knew we wanted to avoid repeating ourselves with ‘IV’; we didn’t want to do Excalibur Part 2. We intended to return to our roots and craft what we called a ‘Street Doom’ album when we were writing it, i.e., a straight-up, no-frills approach with a grittier, more real-life tone to the lyrics and themes. We had a couple of songs completed and a lot of riff ideas. The challenge with ‘IV’ was writing it during the lockdown due to the pandemic, so we had to write using file-sharing software such as Dropbox. I found it quite difficult to translate my ideas as I’m not the most technically-minded person in the world, and all of a sudden, this was the only option! I recorded riffs and vocal melodies onto my phone, and Steve produced many of the basic demo tracks.
While on leave from work, I spent my days working on riffs, song arrangements and writing lyrics; I tried to keep motivated. At times it felt futile; I lived alone and wondered whether we’d ever be able to record or even play the songs live. Eventually, we got together and jammed the pieces in the flesh, which was much better, and I am very happy with the finished product. Working with Chris Fielding (Producer) again was fantastic; he understands our music and what we aim to achieve, and he always brings out the best in our individual and collective performances in the studio, especially with the vocals. He’s our very own Martin Birch or Tom Allom! It was a pleasure recording the album at Foel Studio in the Welsh countryside, too; it is a beautiful place to focus on the job with minimal distractions. In terms of the creative process, Steve or I will come up with a riff or an arrangement of riffs, and then I hum the vocal melody over the riffs, or I might have a word or a phrase, and I’ll build on that and fit the lyrics to the music. We’ll jam this together in the rehearsal room, and Scott will add his ideas and drumbeats, make suggestions regarding the arrangements, etc.
Steve Wilson: I got on OK with the remote writing process regarding coming up with new ideas. I had been using a riff-by-riff approach for a few years, recording on PC. The only thing that made it tricky was being unable to hone the songs in the rehearsal room through repeated jamming. That made things more difficult, but we managed. We did have the idea of a more street-level or stripped-down sound, but in the end, we let Chris Fielding go to work within Foel Studios. He can crank up the amps a lot louder than was possible at his previous studio, which helped us get massive guitar and bass tones. While it is more stripped-down, it’s still characteristically Iron Void. I used the same guitar and pedals as Excalibur, but we used two different Marshalls, different settings and lots of volumes!
HMA: How would you describe the lyrics?
Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale: We always tend to write about the dark side of life as it lends itself well to the music we play, and Sabbath started this tradition initially. With the latest album, we wanted to write about real-life themes and subjects in contrast to the previous album, which was based on myths and legends; this was a deliberate decision. We also included a couple of songs based on some of our favourite cult Horror films, namely ‘Blind Dead’ which is based on ‘Tombs of The Blind Dead’ and ‘She’ which is based on the Hammer horror film of the same title starring Ursula Andress. We have included a song based on a Hammer horror film on every album since our debut barring the last album, as that was a concept record, and we fully intend to continue this tradition on the next album too. I can only comment on my lyrics; I’ll let Steve discuss his lyrics. I created the title ‘Living On The Earth’ a few years ago, but it needed lyrics. It sounded like an Ozzy solo song title, so I kept it.
I’d rather people interpret the lyrics of this song in their own way, it’s quite personal to me, but it can be interpreted in different ways, and I’d like to think it has many meanings. The sentiment behind it is living in a world you have no control over and feelings of frustration and resentment. ‘Pandora’s Box’ is about a guy I knew who drank ayahuasca and lost his mind. He thought he could heal people but ended up in a bad way psychologically. ‘Slave One’ is one of the early Iron Void songs dating back to 1999 with the original line-up. I wanted to record it, but I got to do this album. Paul Wale, our original vocalist wrote the lyrics, but there were only two verses, so I wrote the 3rd verse and changed some of the words. It’s a warning song about the dangers of man’s overreliance on technology. I researched AI when I wrote the 3rd verse in 2020, and now it’s the subject in the daily headlines. The title is a nod to Star Wars and Boba Fett’s iconic spaceship, but ironically the song has nothing to do with him. We also ensured we used ‘One’ instead of ‘1’ to avoid imperial entanglements with Lucasfilm or Disney! Ha, ha!
I wrote ‘Last Rites’ lyrics, but Steve sang this one. I came up with the idea for this song when I came across an article regarding Theresa May’s (ex-British Prime Minister) Father, Reverend Hubert Brasier. In 1953, he became chaplain of All Saints Hospital in Eastbourne and reportedly worked alongside the infamous suspected serial killer, Dr John Bodkin Adams. Adams was the Harold Shipman of his day; between 1946 and 1956, 163 of his patients died while in comas, which was deemed to be worthy of investigation. Most of his patients had left Adams money or items in their wills. I also discovered that Hubert Brasier trained at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield, a village which neighbours Dewsbury, where I live. I visited the site when I was researching and writing the lyrics. It’s a dark song, the perfect way to conclude the latest album.
Steve Wilson: ‘Grave Dance’ was consciously political. I was aware of having only some political lyrics or making the album an activism platform. I limited it to just that one. It’s about the British response to Covid, headed by the then Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. He has since gone on to attempt a career as a B-list celebrity and has very little integrity these days. About midway through the lockdowns, things were not quite as clear-cut as he and some of the other politicians and media were making out. The results were that song, with the title being a metaphor for doing to him what he seemed to be doing to the old and vulnerable for his gain. I expected him to be let go and quietly set aside following some scandal, and that’s exactly what happened!
‘Blind Dead’ and ‘She’ follows on from early B-movie horror-inspired lyrics like ‘The Mad Monk’ and ‘Necropolis.’ It’s always enjoyable to do that Iron Maiden thing and write about a favourite film or book. ‘Blind Dead’ was also my answer to Cathedral’s ‘Night of The Seagulls.’ The imagery and themes fit doom metal perfectly.
‘Lord of The Wasteland’ was a tribute to The Gates of Slumber. I got the phrase from Karl’s liner notes to The Wretch album. I had the chorus, which I remember humming into my phone one night after a few beers when we were all at home due to the Covid lockdowns. I returned a week or two later and put the guitar parts together. The lyrics are an exaggerated commentary of going a little crazy being at home for months.
Scott created the title for ‘Call of The Void,’ the instrumental intro for IV. A particular shred guitarist is now using the title. I want to think she nicked it off us, but it’s probably a coincidence.
HMA: What inspires you to write your lyrics and create your music?
Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale: We’re influenced by many things; observing what is happening in the world around us, personal experiences, myths and legends, Hammer horror films, science fiction, books, and films, to name a few of the things that inspire us to write lyrics. We also have an anti-authoritarian outlook prevalent in some of our songs. In creating our music, Steve and I are the primary songwriters; we both write riffs and lyrics. Scott adds his ideas once we’ve come up with an initial idea for a song or jam a riff in the rehearsal room. Bands we admire influence us, but we have our style and sound, too; our music is quite varied in pace and delivery, but it’s always Doom with elements of NWOBHM and classic metal.
Steve Wilson: I would agree here. We have new ideas inspired by dark and exciting themes, partly from real life and partly from literature or folklore/legend. I can’t say any more than that yet, though.
HMA: Do you have a philosophical fixation?
Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale: I don’t follow any particular religion but admire and respect nature; I’m not a pagan and don’t practice any rituals or anything like that. I certainly believe in life after death and reincarnation. Some of our lyrics have a fantasy element; this is especially evident in Excalibur, for example. Regarding sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, we used to party hard in our youth, but we’ve calmed down a lot since then! We do like drinking beer, and Scott loves his whisky, and we all enjoy playing music; it’s fun, and that’s why we do it.
Steve Wilson: It’s an interesting question, quite open for me now. There is an agnostic side to our worldview. We’re always open to not knowing for sure. The past heavy drinking era is ending, and the next one is about to begin, presumably healthier! I’m always reading and being inspired by everything from classics to political history. It all has an influence.
HMA: How were you initiated in the dark arts of heavy metal?
Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale: My Dad got me into the Blues and helped me to discover Jimi Hendrix, who blew my mind! My Dad wanted a Hendrix cassette tape for Christmas or his birthday, so I bought Jimi Hendrix: Cornerstones. I was about 12 years old at the time.
I listened to the tape before wrapping it up and immediately fell in love. After I gave my Dad the tape, I kept borrowing it and listened to it over and over. I was hungry to hear more guitar-driven Rock music, and I remember watching the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert on TV when Metallica played. They were amazing, all dressed in black, and I thought Kirk Hammett looked like a Mexican drug dealer, a proper badass! This was long before I heard him speak; the illusion was shattered forever! Ha, ha! No, seriously, Metallica blew me away, and I started listening to all their albums, and from that moment on, I knew I wanted to learn how to play the guitar and play in a Metal band. The Black album was the first Metal album I listened to. From there, I graduated to listening to Slayer, who also had a major impact as I couldn’t believe how fast they could play; it was insane! I started listening to Death Metal in my search for heavier and heavier sounds and discovered Doom Metal in my early teens via bands like Cathedral and Sleep. They always talked about Sabbath in interviews, so I started listening to them, which changed my life forever. I couldn’t believe it when I realised they were from Birmingham, the same place as me! For some reason, I thought Ozzy was American as a kid. I was born and raised in Birmingham before moving to Yorkshire when I was ten. Sabbath is my all-time favourite band and always will be, I never get bored of listening to them, and all modern doom bands owe them a great debt of gratitude.
Steve Wilson: I discovered pop music first. I had a few tapes and would listen to things my older sister was into. I got as far as Guns’ n’ Roses in the early ’90s. I had a schoolmate who went to Donnington in 1992 and saw Iron Maiden with his stepdad. He gave me a homemade tape of one of their albums, and I began seeking out the others. He got me into the Di Anno era. I’m thankful for that. I remember buying their albums on cassette from Woolworths for £4.99 each! I still have Piece of Mind, and The Number of The Beast tapes somewhere. From there, I started buying Kerrang! And discovered Metallica, Megadeth etc. Somewhere between 1993 and 94, I decided to attempt playing guitar. It would be after hearing Metallica because I couldn’t understand Maiden’s music then. By 1994, I had a Squire Strat and a little amp and had resolved to one day make an album and release it on vinyl. I would later get into Cathedral and Corrosion of Conformity. They kept mentioning old Sabbath records, so I checked them out, and everything fell into place after that. By the late 90s, I was searching for heavier and heavier bands. I’d discovered down-tuning and doom/sludge by then. It suited me. I could play it, and crucially, I could write songs that fit together quite well.
HMA: Why is music important to you and the world?
Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale: Music has the power to emotionally move people in so many different ways, and it has mystic healing properties; it’s magic. Whenever I’m feeling down, I can rest assured I can throw on an old Sabbath record, which will always make me feel better; that’s something quite special! I had an epiphany many years ago that I don’t write music; it writes to me instead. I believe that the songs are already there in another realm, and as a musician, I channel that energy into the music we make and the songs we play. In that sense, music is a spiritual experience. Of course, it’s also entertaining and mesmerising to watch talented musicians performing live. Music is all-encompassing, universal, and life wouldn’t be the same without it, that’s for sure!
Steve Wilson: I fall in and out of love with listening to music. I recently moved to a new house, and my turntable and stereo were packed for weeks. I heard more in the car during that time and missed sitting and listening closely to a full album on headphones.
I’ve had the same experience of self-writing songs. The main riffs for ‘The Death of Arthur’ were the first things I played that day when picking up my guitar for practice and jam. I wanted to record them as they might make a good track. They came from somewhere else. As Nietzsche said, ‘Life without music would be a mistake.’ A lot of modern music is a mistake, but we can always fall back on the classics to inspire us when we feel like that!