To the uninitiated Iron Man may appear to be a new band with the arrival of their widely publicised ‘South Of The Earth.’ In fact, they have being going since 1988 releasing a string of underground gems which have solidified them amongst the doom faithful.
Now signed to Rise Above Records, the band that started as a Black Sabbath tribute act can finally gain some much needed recognition in the more mainstream end of the musical spectrum.
Being free from gimmicks and appearing an honest, hard working band gives Iron Man a refreshing vibe. A listen to the raw production that runs through the album as well as the basic video for ‘Hail to the Haze’ makes it clear that their are no pretences from this band but simply a love for the riff.
The arrival of vocalist Dee Calhoun from his several hundred past projects has brought a new dimension to the classic doomsters and he has made a strong impression on his first full length for Iron Man. His monolithic voice is not too far away from JB of Grand Magus and new found depth can be found in songs such as ‘The Whore in Confession.’
These vocals are backed by a strong guitar partnership between founding members Al Morris III and Louis Strachan who definitely know how to write a catchy riff. ‘The Worst and Longest Day’ is perhaps the album’s best, with a heavy Saint Vitus like melody that is very rarely done with such precision.
Unsurprisingly, ‘South Of The Earth’ is still very influenced by Black Sabbath from their tribute band days. ‘Master of Reality’ seems to have been on heavy rotation during the creation of this record with ‘Half-Face…’ sounding like an unreleased b-side and ‘Aerial Change the Sky’ their ‘Orchid.’
This Sabbath influence plays part in the band’s main flaw with a lack of individuality to set them apart from the other classic doom bands. Their groove heavy take on song-writing is definitely enjoyable but never has that element of distinctiveness that bands such as Trouble and Pentagram naturally posses.
Iron Man’s famously marmite artwork continues on this album with a literally spaced out image showing the earth seemingly exploding from the south. This fits in with their lyrical theme but is unlikely to win over anyone unconvinced by the bands to the point name.
Coming in at just under an hour, ‘South Of The Earth’ is a strong and consistently heavy album by one of Maryland’s longest running rock bands. Admiration is definitely due for Iron Man’s persistence and dedication to what they love but that classic album is unfortunately still slightly out of their reach.
Scribed by: Alex Varley