As previously mentioned in Albert Mansour’s recent Wolfbane review, Hellbound.ca has a pretty deep respect for the excellent job Pittsburgh’s Shadow Kingdom Records is doing chronicling long lost metal gems for modern day consumption. The long line of obscurities they have dug up in the past three years is admirable and this new reissue by legendary DC doom crew Iron Man is no exception. Starting in the late eighties as a Black Sabbath cover band, the band was – and still is – lead by guitarist Alfred Morris III, known by many as the black Tony Iommi. Morris can play like a madman and his riffs are the foundation upon which every different version of Iron Man has been based. He has been the band’s only consistent member; without Morris there would be no Iron Man in the same manner that without Tony Iommi there would be no Black Sabbath.
The album in question here, the somewhat appropriately titled Black Night, was originally released in the early nineties on the German-based doom label Hellhound Records. As far as I know it was never released domestically in North America, although there were import copies to be found for those who searched them out. I personally never came across one, so I was pretty delighted when this one showed up on the mail for review, especially considering it was the only Iron Man release I had yet to hear outside of their 2009 reunion album (also released on Shadow Kingdom). Having said that, I am glad to report it was well worth the wait and that getting to hear this spruced up version of the album has indeed been a treat.
This early incarnation of Iron Man is most notable for two distinct reasons: the guitar playing of the aforementioned Morris and the absolutely explosive drumming of one Ron Kalimon. Kalimon is best known for his work with other doom acts. He was the drummer for Asylum (later Unorthodox) and Internal Void and he is one hell of a great drummer. His explosive styles are well documented on Black Night, with his strong drumming being just as important to these songs as Morris’ fantastically heavy riffs. Apparently one of the things that was done in the remastering of this CD for reissue was to really bring the drum levels up in the mix. They have done a great job without going overboard. Of course, none of that would matter if the band didn’t have great songs. They do. The title track is a riff heavy mid-pace wallop of doom and songs like “Leaving Town” and “Life After Death” rock with enough groove that fans of bands as different as Clutch and (early) Anvil will find solace in this well played stuff.
If there is one negative that may polarize listeners here it would be the vocals of singer Rob Levey. While Levey has become well known as the originator of the Stoner Hands of Doom festival, before that he sang on this first Iron Man album. To be honest, his vocals don’t quite fit the band. He sounds a little like he’s straining to hit the notes at times, although by no means does he cross the line into cringe territory. Instead, it comes across more like he’s singing a little out of his comfort zone. Not bad, but maybe not a perfect fit either. Even with that taken into consideration, Black Night is still a monster of a debut album for an American doom metal band and one that fans of the genre should definitely check out.
(Shadow Kingdom Records)