It’s a rare demo that hits with the force of a good album, but it’s not the biggest shock that an experienced talent such as Reuben Storey, who is best known for his time with Christian Mistress, Funerot, and Quayde LaHüe, would be the first one in 2021 to make a big impression. Dropping with no buildup and in an age of online-only promotion, it’s easy for an independent demo like this to get lost, but Iron Exile is already making waves with the strength of its spirit and passion in its heart.

As with a lot of heavy metal, Lords of Quarmall wears its influences on its sleeve, and it doesn’t take much looking to find riffs that could have been lifted from a Lord Weird Slough Feg or Brocas Helm song. The ultimate goal of this project seems to be to play barbarian heavy metal like the old greats, and to a large extent that’s certainly what it does. While that might not sound too interesting—there’s only so much time out there for bands taking from those narrow and oft-referenced influences—there’s a certain rough gleam and personal identity to Iron Exile that helps it stand apart from legions of superficially-similar demos. Reuben doesn’t lean into the obvious aspects of those bands as much as somewhat-similar projects, and isn’t afraid to do a section of sludgy doom or a catchy and rocking synth-laded bridge, or lean into repetitive epic metal; while this is a band standing on the shoulders of giants, it takes its influences in its own direction.

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The biggest difference that stands out from the pack is how unafraid Iron Exile is to lean into groovy sections of doom, and combined with a vocal approach that’s more Lemmy than Shelton, Iron Exile has enough groove and sludge to its approach to appeal on its own merits instead of as a clone for fans of its influences, and that makes all the difference. Reuben’s experience also shows itself well in the form of subtle layering throughout the demo, ranging from cool lead guitar bits during the buildup to an outro to the aforementioned synths to the way he effortlessly put together delightful dual-guitar melodies at tasteful points throughout the short tracklisting. Another special point of note is the drumming, which is pleasantly boisterous and pounding, and without which the demo would be significantly less interesting—not super surprising given Reuben’s long career as a drummer.

There are certainly points that will hopefully be improved on with future releases—sections that are a little too same-y, vocal parts that don’t work well enough, and whatnot—but given that Iron Exile is a demo, I’m honestly floored. I listened to it three or four times in a row when I checked it out and I am really looking forward to hearing what comes next. In the meantime, please find an interview with Reuben below talking about the project.

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Hi Reuben, thanks for doing this interview with Invisible Oranges! To start, this appears to be your third new solo project since the pandemic started—good way to keep busy?

Hey Brandon, thanks for having me. Indeed, LORDS OF QUARMALL is the third solo entity I’ve endeavored to record since April 2020. I’ve been in a band (or bands) since 2001; 2020 was the first year I found myself in none. I intended to pursue a different form of expression with my spare time, but music still proved to be in the path of least resistance for creativity, even without the benefit of collaborators.

I could (or should) easily find better ways to fill my time as I can get pretty obsessive and singular when working on a project. Other parts of my life can suffer as a result. That said, I do love dealing in sound, it gratifies like nothing else.

What creative need does Lords of Quarmall fill in you that Horrible and Yronoxit do not?

YRONOXIT was an experiment to see what I could accomplish with my limited resources and abilities. I probably shouldn’t have shared it as I’m not satisfied with the recordings at all. Both of those EPs were done before I had found a place to play my drums so I used computer drums. That was frustrating as drums are my main instrument and I couldn’t really get the computer to do what I wanted. I’ve toyed with the idea of re-recording some of the songs with real drums, but it’s probably better to just move forward.

A little background is necessary in the case of HORRIBLE. I started that project in 2007 by contributing a song to a regional punk and hardcore cassette compilation. I’ve always loved crude death metal, like IMPETIGO, REPULSION, SLAUGHTER, MASTER, early DEATH, MASSACRE, etc. and found the style pretty attractive considering my limitations as a guitar player & singer. I recorded another song in 2008 that I never did anything with, then started toying with it again in 2014 eventually recording a four song demo in 2015. So flash forward to June 2020—I’ve got a space to play drums but I’m TOTALLY out of practice, so I leaned on my laurels and revisited that style. I’m pretty stoked on how “Into the Abyss” came out and likely will do something more with HORRIBLE down the line. However, I wanted to continue to explore the harmonic and melodic ideas I was writing under YRONOXIT (stuff I think would be wholly inappropriate for HORRIBLE). I considered continuing under the name YRONOXIT but, honestly, I just really don't like the name, haha! Thus, LORDS OF QUARMALL.

Does that mean that Lords of Quarmall is more of a continuation of Yronoxit than a genuinely new project?

Only inasmuch that it's just me playing and writing the material. To be clear, when I realized what I was writing wasn't fitting into what I wanted to do with HORRIBLE, I thought maybe I was revisiting YRONOXIT. I soon realized that I didn't want to take that same approach but felt conflicted about started yet another new project. I anticipated some eye-rolling, like, "Oh, there he goes again... same shit, different name" but I do feel L.O.Q. is a distinctive, separate entity way more aligned with achieving what I really want to do with music.

Do you think that you could have made this material work without your prior experience with bands like Christian Mistress and Quayde LaHüe?

Definitely not. Every musical effort I've been involved with has left its mark on me, with many collaborators informing my knowledge, taste and growth (or regression, haha) as a musician. Though, a difference is that YRONOXIT and HORRIBLE were maybe more of a reaction to past efforts, whereas LORDS OF QUARMALL could be more a culmination. I've haven't really thought that much about it to be honest, but with a cursory reflection, I believe this could be accurate.

Is C.B. Centauri Productions, the label which put out the CD and cassette of the demo, your label?

Yes, though calling it a label is maybe a little gratuitous. Perhaps it’s more of an extension of the fantasy, like calling LoQ a “band”, haha! At this point, it’s more about padding out part of the aesthetic than serving any sort of function. I have always enjoyed sending and receiving mail, though, and admittedly romanticize mail-order business.

Are you hunting to have someone else do a larger release of the demo, then?

Not particularly, at least domestically. I would not be opposed to having an overseas label do a repress to avoid the prohibitive costs of an imported release. That's hinged upon demand and thus far I'm fully capable of handling it myself.

Why have you kept Iron Exile off of streaming services and digital distribution such as Bandcamp?

I've opted not to use bandcamp partly because of an indignant, however misguided, sense of pride. From my perspective, the name of the business itself has taken on an air of condescension. It insinuates that I need to go to "camp" to learn how to promote and release my “band”. I realize this is a knee jerk reaction and while I do not deny bandcamp is a handy resource, I also believe it is not crucial for a band to utilize the platform. LORDS OF QUARMALL is niche music made explicitly for the underground. Anybody that buys a physical copy from me can request a download I freely provide. If they don't purchase it from me, I'm sure they could find it online somewhere and download it without cost. I'm totally fine with that.

As a side complaint, I just really hate the gaps between songs when listening on bandcamp. It drives me crazy! It fucks up the sequence, like burning a CD and forgetting to uncheck the "two second gap between songs" button. It can ruin a listening experience for me, and I don't want to present my music that way at all. In the end it’s all really small potatoes—the music is available for those that wish to seek it out. It does not need or deserve to be everywhere anytime one may wish it, and nor was it created to be.

How did you decide on the rougher vocal approach you took on the demo?

It's not intentional. I have always struggled with singing and really have no clue how to approach a more melodic based execution. It does not come natural for me. I recorded take after take and after each one, I would present them to my wife for consideration. She kept pushing me to really belt it out and convince her of my earnest. "Nah, that sucks, I don't want to hear anymore, go do it again.." She is a shrewd producer. Incidentally, the takes that got her approval were typically recorded after many whiskeys and chain smoking. Go figure! If I had my druthers, I'd sound like Graham Bonnet!

Outside of the obvious, what are some of your bigger influences for the project?

Quite honestly, a lot of my friends and former bandmates. I miss a lot of my pals so sharing this stuff is almost like hanging out with them in a weird way. There are some groups that influenced—or maybe rather inspired the tunes, though I don't know if much any trace of them can be heard in LOQ music. Here's the short list: UFO, C/AVERAGE, GOOD RATS, THE QUICK, TKO, ASIA (USA), and SHOK PARIS (particularly "Steel and Starlight").

Do you plan to play shows at any point and find a live lineup for this project, once the pandemic allows?

I haven't given it much thought yet. I suppose this falls in line with your question regarding labels... if there is a demand for it, I will certainly entertain the idea. However, one part of this project I'm really enjoying is that I don't have to schedule practices, juggle personalities or do anything I don't want to. It's a compromise to not collaborate and be limited by my own abilities but it's been nice being afforded this experience due to a worldwide scourge. My glass is half full and I feel like a hundred bucks.

What’s coming next for Lords of Quarmall?

I'd like to try a longer format. In 2020 I wrote and recorded four 15 minute recordings so now I think it's time to knuckle down and try for something more around the 44 minute mark. I've yet to start writing in earnest, but I've kept up my morning drum practices and the ideas are starting to smolder...

Do you have anything else to talk about or promote?

Anyone interested in LORDS OF QUARMALL can purchase a copy on cassette or CD-R from my label website.
I also put up an archive of some of my artwork here—it might be of interest to some, there are a lot of old flyers I've drawn for some pretty rad shows over the last decade. I guess that's it from me, thanks for the chat!

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Iron Exile can be ordered at C.B. Centauri Productions.