Iron Lung unleashes the power violence at Roboto | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Iron Lung unleashes the power violence at Roboto

click to enlarge Drums are the bastard: Iron Lung's Jensen Ward
Drums are the bastard: Iron Lung's Jensen Ward

On Iron Lung's 2004 LP, Life. Iron Lung. Death., the title track is 16 seconds long. It features several seconds of labored breathing, about three seconds of frenzied percussive playing, and the lyrics: "Life, iron lung, death."

Welcome to power violence. For the uninitiated, don't be afraid -- the only real violence being done here is to your ears.

Iron Lung's songs aren't all quite that short, but most clock in at a minute or less. The two-man band, from Reno originally but now residing in Seattle, is one of the tour-hardened standard-bearers in the more recent wave of power violence, a sub-sub-genre of hardcore punk that generally features thrashy blast-beats and sludgy metal breakdowns thrown together into quick songs. There's no time to get complicated here; it's just energy and volume.

The first power-violence explosion was caused in the mid-'90s by bands like Man Is the Bastard, Spazz and Dropdead, groups that sped up earlier hardcore to an almost ridiculous rate, interlacing it with more metal-inspired, Sabbathy work. The mid-'00s wave has featured, among others, a number of bands on San Francisco's Prank Records, including Dropdead -- one of the few original power-violence bands currently active -- and Iron Lung.

One thing setting Iron Lung apart is that with only two members, it accomplishes a sound that rivals any larger band of its ilk. It's not just amplification, though that's surely part of it. Jon Kortland's guitar work, while characteristically repetitive, is more complicated than that of many power-violence guitarists, making up for the lack of a second guitar (and bass, for that matter). Drummer Jensen Ward, for his part, pummels frantically.

They've been playing since 2000, but this year Iron Lung's bandmates released only their second full-length, Sexless // No Sex; like plenty of bands in the DIY scene they inhabit, they've got a list of 7-inch singles and split records that stretches on and on, comprising the majority of their recorded work. (Of course, scene culture aside, when your songs are 40 seconds long, quite a few fit on a 7-inch, and an LP is quite an undertaking.)

Veterans of years of U.S. touring as well as a trip to Europe, Iron Lung brings its two-man show to the Mr. Roboto Project on Thu., Dec. 6. Wear earplugs and mind the mosh pit, but don't be nervous -- the jams are brutal, but the drum kit is all that's likely to end up on the receiving end of any violence.

Iron Lung, Slices, Thrak, Soft Sickle. 7 p.m. Thu., Dec. 6. The Mr. Roboto Project, 722 Wood St., Wilkinsburg. $7. All ages. 412-247-9639 or

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