“Iron” Al Morris III is a doomer’s doomer; an original in of the congregation of The Riff. His band Iron Man, in the ranks of the original Hellhound Records greats, has seen ups, downs, further downs and expanses of time where the question, “Hey, what the hell ever happened to Iron Man?” wasn’t necessarily out of line. With just the self-released Submission EP to show for studio material (though there have been a host of live albums since 2006) in the time between 1999′s Generation Void (Brainticket) and today, Morris and Iron Man have been through lineup changes, periods of inactivity and damn near every other obstacle you can put in front of a band, remaining in spite of everything in the top names of traditional Maryland doom, which, to be fair, is a scene forgiving of intermittence among its own.
In 2009, Iron Man signed up with Pittsburgh‘s Shadow Kingdom Records to release their new album, the aptly-titled I Have Returned. Anyone who knows the band knows they got their start chopping out live sets mostly comprised of Sabbath covers, but on I Have Returned, originality takes center stage, with vocalist Joe Donnelly (once an Ozzy impersonator) providing unique companionship for Morris‘ riffing. The rhythm section of bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Dex Dexter makes this an entirely new lineup surrounding the guitarist since Generation Void, but Iron Man more than meet the tightness required by the music, sounding cohesive and natural throughout the album’s 10 tracks.
Comprised largely of straightforward, guitar-led traditional doom, I Have Returned does have a few surprises and changes. “Sodden with Sin” has some screaming in the background vocals that stands out from the rest of the record, and acoustic interlude “Days of Olde” serves not only to change the atmosphere from the five tracks of solid doom that preceded it, but also as a lead-in for the title track, which is one of the best songs present and certainly deserving of its own intro. Otherwise, Iron Man keep the focus on quality doom riffage and classic metal aesthetics, with some varying of pace for good measure. Lyrics to “Run from the Light,” “Fallen Angel” and “Curse the Ages (Curse Me)” don’t do much to shock, but, penned by Donnelly, they serve well to enhance the mood of the songs and set an appropriately solid and downtrodden vibe.
Doom heads know, even after all this time, what to expect from Iron Man, and on I Have Returned, they more than deliver. I have to hope this lineup lasts, because Morris‘ guitar and Donnelly‘s voice, unafraid to appear in multiple layers, confident in its execution and delivery, make a tremendous pairing. The fuzz of Strachan‘s bass provides enough thickness so that the songs feel like you could crawl inside them, and Dexter‘s drumming, while not awash in mathematical or technical complexity, keeps a hearty balance of fills and rhythms. I Have Returned is what it says: Iron Man are back, and as a statement of intent it rings clear. Doom or be doomed. And either way, doom.
Tags: Iron Man, Maryland doom, Shadow Kingdom