Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Iron Man - Black Night (1993) 90%

"You fight with the strength of many men, Sir Knight."  

When a new review challenge was annouced on the Metal Archives, I looked at what classics I could write about and I remembered Iron Man's debut album, Black Night and I knew it was a good choice. This band never really got the credit they deserved in my opinion. Many reasons  could explain this folly. One : they never really got a stable lineup even though it's all about the guitarist Al Morris III. The band got more than 5 singers for fuck's sake ! Two : they were probably 10 years too late, in 1993 the doom scene was already explosing into many directions with Sleep, Kyuss and the likes and traditional doom got a bit left behind.Three : perhaps the band wasn't innovative enough for the new fans of the genre who thought that the Black Sabbath touch was getting boring. Hint : it never was and it never will be ! 

While Pentagram and Trouble were more essential to the development of the American doom metal scene, Iron Man is no less an extremely talented and important part of the equation. One of the best bands from the awesome Maryland scene, they're playing a very fun kind of traditional doom influenced by the most classical sound you can find. The album is almost 50 minutes for 10 tracks but it feels so short and you're left wanting for more. While there's some slower moments, they prefer to keep things groovy, baby and it's totally ok with me! Led by Morris, the album title is obviously a pun since he's definitely an epic black knight in shining armor. I always found interesting that an African American plays doom. Like a souvenir of the past, the bluesy influence of Jimi Hendrix is subtlely present and appreciable. He has awesome riffs and solos in his arsenal and there's no filler. It's a fast doom band with a shitload of leads and it's always interesting and varied. The solos are never forced and are always full of feeling. It's never to show off and it's necessary to build the cool atmospheres like on the second half of ''Leaving Town''. Iron Man always been able to have both great riffs and solos but also good transitions between the two. It also doesn't forget the Sabbathesque greasy bass lines and the fun drum rolls but the highlight is clearly Morris' playing. He knows what doom is and what it should be and he's greatly successful at keeping it true. The lyrics are honest and nothing extravagant, they talk about life, social issues and concrete dark stuff even "Vampires", a metaphor about drugs. It can be a bit boring but it totally fits their music, it's not epic after all, it's the Saint Vitus' school, I guess!

I can't really say I'm a big fan of the vocals on this album though. Rob Levey's  performance on his only album with the band is merely decent. He apparently did nothing else based on what the Archives say. He can be compared to both Osbourne and Dio, I guess. He's definitely not bad but he's mundane, unmemorable and derivative. I highly suggest the other Iron Man albums, especially The Passage for better vocals. But let's not forget Morris' other band, Force and their only self titled album released 2 years before Black Night. A very good album with a woman at the mic, very interesting to say the least. If you like the current female fronted doom trend, be sure to check them out as well ! They're a bluesy version and even more traditional band. Formed way back in 1976, it was an excellent prelude to Iron Man. Their future is bright with Dee Calhoun who's a very interesting singer with a lot of personality and I cannot wait to hear the new album titled South of the Earth set to be released this year.

Their music can be accused of conventionality but who really cares ? It's traditional doom we're talking about and along with Revelation, Iron Man is very underrated. Yeah, many bands were pushing the metal universe to new heights of extremity during the early nineties. Doom has always been a conservative music genre, this opposition to change is both a blessing and a curse. I mean, I like to hear to some innovation in my doom but keeping things simple and playing it with honesty, love and passion is the most important thing. Black Night is a great example of traditional doom from a truly underrated band of its generation.

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