Watching Iron Man‘s new video for the title-track to last year’s South of the Earth(review here), I can almost hear the nasally strain and SoCal-goofball chuckle of Ricky Rachtman introducing the clip on Headbanger’s Ball circa 1990. The Maryland doom four-piece are no strangers to a classic aesthetic, and the visuals of “South of the Earth” tap directly into one, whether it’s the slow-walking cemetery visitor shot in negative or the appearance and disappearance of the band’s members as the song plays out. In the case of frontman Dee Calhoun, who also directed, we get to see him multiple times over.
“South of the Earth” is pretty representative of what metal videos were in a time before cinematic budgeting or band-in-a-warehouse performance clips. You get a feel for what the song is about and the mood is certainly on display as Iron Man rocks through, guitarist Al Morris III locking his own grooving in with that of the camera ever so slightly while drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann copes with one cymbal that seems to be disappearing and bassist Louis Strachan, as ever, holds the whole thing together. For a record that was thoroughly metallized, the “South of the Earth” video most definitely follows suit.
And if you haven’t yet had the chance to savor Morris’ tone as captured by the skillful production of Frank Marchand or roll along with Strachan and Waldmann in the groove they harness, “South of the Earth” should make for a fittingly representative introduction. They named the record after it, if that tells you anything. South of the Earth is available now onRise Above in Europe and Metal Blade in North America, and the video features camera work by Kelly Croston in addition to Strachan and Calhoun.
The Hidden Hand happened at a pretty interesting juncture for American heavy, just when underground riff-worship was really starting to get a foothold in a wider public consciousness beyond what it had been in the days before the widespread instant-gratification of the internet became a way to access just about anyone’s music anytime. Their second album, the stellar Mother Teacher Destroyer, certainly got some attention when it was issued by Southern Lord in 2004 — helped perhaps by the publicity of Dave Grohl‘s Probot project, released that same year, and Wino‘s visible involvement in that on guitar and vocals — but the preceding full-length debut, 2003′s Divine Propaganda, had no such high-profile lead-in. Not to shoehorn it into too convenient a narrative, but it was simply Wino‘s new band after Spirit Caravan broke up.
Listening back now, over a decade later and in light of the two albums The Hidden Hand released after it, Divine Propagandais a standout if somewhat uneven release. Issued by MeteorCity, it was the first studio output from Wino, bassist/vocalist Bruce Falkinburg and drummer Dave Hennessy, and it introduced a lot of the Illuminati/conspiracy/socio-political framework in which a good portion of the band’s lyrics would work for the duration of their tenure, but thanks in no small part to the Weinrich/Falkinburg collaboration in the songwriting, it also pushed into territory that was neither The Obsessed-style doom nor the freewheeling heavy rock of Spirit Caravan. There was something else going on, and that’s evident on Divine Propaganda, even if the trio were still figuring out what they wanted their sound to be and what shape that collaboration would take.
In all honesty, “The Last Tree” — track seven of the record’s total 10 — probably could’ve been a Spirit Caravan song with its rolling groove of a chorus riff, but as the verse shows, The Hidden Hand were already becoming something distinct, and the fuzz that Falkinburg puts on his bass in the track is not to be missed. It’s something of a forgotten gem from the largely underappreciated band, whose timing and whose songwriting continue to intrigue.
Call it serendipity that Spirit Caravan decided to announce what’s hopefully just their first round of US tour dates on a Wednesday morning, and here we are, wrapping up this three-week Wino Wednesday series celebrating their reunion with the three studio tracks they recorded for the 2003 MeteorCity compilation, The Last Embrace — essentially their final recorded tracks. The trio of Scott “Wino” Weinrich, Dave Sherman and Gary Isom will begin their tour in Baltimore on March 7 at the Metro Galley – in addition to tour-support from Pilgrim, my understanding is Iron Man and Foghound are also on that bill — and wrapping up at the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn on April 15. Between, they’ll cover coast-to-coast territory, presumably leaving Boston and L.A. for next time, before flying out to play at Desertfest in Berlin and London. It’s a hell of a run. If they’re not reunited yet, they certainly will be by the time this tour is over.
Check the poster for the dates:
Now then, we wrap up what became a three-week Wino Wednesday special with “Dove-Tongued Aggressor,” the last of the three then-new cuts included on The Last Embrace. Like “Brainwashed,” which was featured last week, “Dove-Tongued Aggressor” pairs a social commentary with a stomping riff, but the song’s twists are different both lyrically and musically, moving into its bridge with quirky starts and stops before getting back to the chugging verse and more open-strummed chorus. Like “Brainwashed” and even the more subdued “The Last Embrace,” which was the leadoff on the comp, it’s unmistakably Spirit Caravan, and as we stand on the precipice of their reunion getting underway, perhaps most of all, “Dove-Tongued Aggressor” shows just how much the band still had to offer when they called it quits.
I’m awfully glad they decided to tour. More to come. Have a great Wino Wednesday.
After checking out the track “The Last Embrace” from Spirit Caravan‘s 2003 swansong compilation of the same name last week — doing so in honor of the trio’s upcoming reunions at Desertfest London, at Desertfest Berlin and at Hellfest 2014 in France — it seemed to make sense to keep running with the theme. So after “The Last Embrace,” consider “Brainwashed” the second in a series we’ll wrap next Wednesday of the three songs from that MeteorCity release that pulled together much of Spirit Caravan‘s recorded output, save for the DreamwheelEP, issued through the same label in 1999, prior to the arrival of the second full-length, Elusive Truth, on Joe Lally of Fugazi‘s Tolotta Records.
In both its instrumental arrangement and lyrical theme, “Brainwashed” is a much different track than “The Last Embrace,” which it follows immediately as the second song on the compilation. Centered around a nod-ready heavy stomp of a riff — the kind that bassist Dave Sherman and drummer Gary Isom handled so well throughout Spirit Caravan‘s tenure — it finds guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich diving headfirst into more grounded political themes than the epic framework of the prior cut. By 2003, Wino was no stranger to social commentary, having covered that ground in The Obsessed on songs like “To Protect and Serve” and “Streetside” from 1994′s The Church Within, but the lyrics of “Brainwashed” seem to engage directly with ideas of conspiracy, the Illuminati, surreptitious elements at work:
I’ll take your evil wind and give it right back to ya Hungry buzzards are waiting on the grey fence of ignorance It’s a classic case, they obfuscate, a brainwashed populace Screaming crows and sirens, a normal world is crying Bright bird of redemption, winged truth, with eyes of fire One more fool, divide and rule, a brainwashed populace You dance around the question, because the answers, you must hide You crept into the dimension, now be lost through all time It’s a classic case, they obfuscate, a brainwashed populace
There’s a better audio quality version of the track on YouTube paired with images from John Carpenter’s 1988 film, They Live, and that doesn’t feel like an inappropriate complement (I’d have used that one instead of this, but the clip gets into “9/11 was an inside job” stuff, and I wouldn’t want to come off as arguing one way or another), since lines like “One more fool, divide and rule, a brainwashed populace” cover similar ideology. Of course, in 2003, Wino would dive further into these themes with The Hidden Hand‘s debut, Divine Propaganda (also MeteorCity), so it’s interesting as well to think of “Brainwashed” as a precursor to that.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
News continues to surface about 2014′s Sixty Watt Shaman reunion, in that in addition to putting out new music and performing at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 next May in Worcester, MA, the reinvigorated Maryland rockers will be joining Spirit Caravan in representing the Free State at Desertfest in London. There’s a fun bit of symmetry there, with both bands reuniting. They put out a split together in 1999, so here they are a decade and a half later. The more things change.
Riffs will be had! Find the announcement below, courtesy of the Desertfest website, with words by Rich from The Day After the Sabbath:
SIXTY WATT SHAMAN RECHARGED AND READY FOR DESERTFEST 2014
Sixty Watt Shaman are back! Back, that is, from an important time in stoner rock history when the southern rock infusions of bands like The Mighty Nimbus and Alabama Thunderpussy were ruling.
SWS started in 1996 in Maryland, quickly becoming an established name in underground rock but live have remained a growing concern since their third and final 2002 album with only very occasional live appearances.
The Shaman’s sound is characterised by soulful grooves, husky vocals and whiskey-drenched attitude, born from the collective experience of guys who know a thing or two about life and have put that wisdom into the form of swaggering riffs and swinging rhythm. Over the years they’ve toured the US with Nebula, Spirit Caravan, Black Label Society, Crowbar, Clutch, Corrosion Of Conformity, Alabama Thunderpussy and toured Europe with Karma To Burn.
Joining the original Sixty Watt Shaman line-up of vocalist/guitarist Dan Soren, bassist Rev Jim Forrester and drummer Chuck Dukehart III, Todd Ingram from King Giant is initiated into the gang as their new lead guitarist to help hone their sound to even higher levels and take them back into the studio. At DesertFest 2014 they will be delivering the goods with a set of well-proven classics, along with some new surprises to celebrate this seasoned outfit’s new burst of life.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
You know who’s gonna argue with a Sixty Watt Shaman reunion? Frickin’ nobody, that’s who. Maybe suckers and squares, but suckers and squares can both get bent. That’s right — I said it.
Of course, we already knew that Sixty Watt Shaman have reunited for shows from the prior announcement of their appearance at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Massachusetts next year — stoked, even though it seems to have moved since last I heard — but the good news torn fresh from the PR wire below is that in addition to gigging, the band will also be releasing new material. Now, it’s not specified whether it’s an EP or a new full-length, but confirmation of new material is more than I had 20 minutes ago, so you won’t hear me complain.
Here’s how it is:
SIXTY WATT SHAMAN: Maryland Riff Rock Heroes Reunite For 2014 Live Actions
Reissues And New Material Planned
Maryland’s SIXTY WATT SHAMAN rides again, as the act has risen from the ashes to make their return to the stage and studio in 2014.
The classic SIXTY WATT SHAMAN lineup of vocalist/guitarist Dan Soren, bassist Rev Jim Forrester and drummer Chuck Dukehart III — three quarters of the crew who brought the band’s Seed of Decades and Ultra Electric albums to fruition — will be delivering a set of time proven classics as well as some new surprises to celebrate the relaunch of this mighty outfit. Additionally, the band welcomes Todd (TI) Ingram from King Giant aboard as their new lead guitarist to help write the next chapter in their sonic legacy. TI is no stranger to the genre as his heavy riffs and blistering leads are a signature part of KG. On the new band activities, Chuck Dukehart III stated, “We are beyond ecstatic to be making music together again! SIXTY WATT SHAMAN is and always will be a brotherhood and we are bonded by blood. It’s always been ingrained in our bones. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to writing this next chapter of the journey with my brothers in arms.”
For 2014, SIXTY WATT SHAMAN has confirmed their spot headlining the much revered The Eye of the Stoned Goat IV Fest in Worcester, Massachusetts on May 3rd. The two day fest is an intense gathering of bands from across the rock/doom/psych scene, this year set to include twenty acts including Curse The Son, Foghound, Kingsnake, Cortez, Volume IV, Beelzefuzz, Ichabod and more.
Besides additional live ventures coming together for the year, SIXTY WATT SHAMAN will also be reissuing select material from the band’s back catalog, and will also step back into the studio to bring a fresh batch of tunes to life.
A household name in the underground rock community, SIXTY WATT SHAMAN formed in Baltimore in the mid-1990s, and released three full-length albums between 1998 and 2002; their Ultra Electric debut on Game Two Records and the subsequent Seed of Decades and Reason To Live via Spitfire Records. Over the years they toured nationally with Nebula, Spirit Caravan, Black Label Society, Crowbar, Clutch, Corrosion Of Conformity, Alabama Thunderpussy and others, and trekked Europe alongside Karma To Burn.
Stay tuned for more Sixty Watt updates on SIXTY WATT SHAMAN in the coming months, including the launch of www.SixtyWattShaman.com.
Posted in Features on November 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
“…Between conviction and creation…”
Don’t be surprised when year-end-list time rolls around next month and Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled The Church Within Records debut is in my top 10. The eight-song collection has become a near constant in both my mental jukebox and actual listening rotation. Most mornings since the album’s August release, I’ve woken up with the chorus to “All the Feeling Returns” stuck in my head, and putting the track on only seems to exacerbate it. If the song wasn’t so good, I might seek some kind of professional help.
Beelzefuzz are a relatively recent advent. Their first demo began to circulate in 2011 and I was tipped off to check them out by Clamfight guitarist Sean McKee. Car troubles stunted a nonetheless engaging performance at Days of the Doomed II in Wisconsin last year, and after their sets at Stoner Hands of Doom XII a year ago in Connecticut, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 2 in Delaware earlier in 2013 and again in Wisconsin at Days of the Doomed III, it slowly (always slowly) started to dawn on me just how individualized their brand of progressive doom is. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of Pale Divine) recorded Beelzefuzz(review here) with the venerable Chris Kozlowski – noted for his work with Blue Cheer, Pentagram, and many, many others — and the result could easily prove over time to be a classic of Maryland-style doom.
That sounds like hyperbole, and of course what catches on that level depends on more than just the quality of the songs themselves, but that quality is there, and in a scene that prides itself on traditionalism, Beelzefuzz have been able to not only convey sonic loyalism, but to gracefully expand the breadth of the doom they’re creating, whether it’s the harmonies Ortt brings vocally to the space thematic of “Lunar Blanco,” the general smoothness of the production — it remains both deep and weighted tonally — or the flow honed over the course of the album’s 37 minutes, Beelzefuzz not only show potential for where future progression might lead them, but as songs like “Hypnotize,” the aforementioned “All the Feeling Returns,” “Reborn” and the stomping “Lonely Creatures” demonstrate, there’s already significant capacity for accomplishment in the band’s aesthetic and songwriting method. They are sonically adventurous — as the guitar-as-organ effects and live vocal multitracking will attest — patient when they need to be, and only in danger of getting stronger over time.
Keeping good company with Pale Divine, Admiral Browning, Backwoods Payback, Valkyrie, Wasted Theory and others, Beelzefuzz will play Stoner Hands of Doom XIII this coming Saturday, Nov. 9, at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia. Ortt took some time out to discuss this fest, the situation with Brendan Burns of The Eye of the Stoned Goat stepping in in place of promoters Rob and Cheryl Levey, as well as their pending appearance next week in Germany at the Hammer of Doom festival on Nov. 16, playing alongside While Heaven Wept, Orchid, Jex Thoth, and writing and recording the album itself.
Pentagram, First Daze Here: The Vintage Collection (2002)
Sometimes if it’s been a while I forget if I’ve already posted a record. I did a quick search on the site for First Daze Hereto see if I had posted the compilation of vintage early ’70s Pentagram tracks before, and no, I haven’t, but I found that on Oct. 30, 2009 — four years and two days ago — I closed out the week with “Lazylady” from the album. I was already pretty set on First Daze Here, but that just made it all the better for me. The more things change, right? Almost half a decade later, still wrapping up a long week with “Forever My Queen” and “When the Screams Come.” Go figure.
I was in college when Relapse issued this compilation in 2002, and I knew who Pentagram was at that point, but for sure First Daze Heregave me a whole new appreciation for the band, as I think it did for a lot of people. It’s great to have Bobby Liebling and company still rocking out, and I’ve yet to see him sing any of these songs and not enjoy myself, but this is just a special document of a special time, and thinking of all the great music and all the great doom I was discovering at that point, it’s wound up representing a special time for me as well. Maybe that’s not what they had in mind 30 years after the fact from the recording, but it worked out that way anyhow.
Before I wrap things up, I want to extend a special thanks to Todd Severin and John Rancik from The Ripple Effect. This week, they posted an interview with me about running this site and music in general and a lot of things, and it really meant a lot to me that they’d take the time or be interested enough to send over questions. I was pretty wordy in my answers, but I had been thinking a lot about what I’m doing with this project and why I do what I do here, and they gave me a real chance to explore some of those ideas in a way that was as much clearing it up for myself as for anyone else who might be interested. It was truly appreciated, and as someone who’s rarely on that end of an interview, I hope I did alright in laying out some of my perspective.
Appreciation also goes out to everyone on Thee Facebooks who shared the link or was kind enough to comment. I got some great support from people I genuinely respect, and frankly, that’s what keeps me going, so thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
And thank you.
I didn’t get as many album reviews in this week as I would’ve liked, but there was the SHoD coverage and starting the vinyl column and I was either going to do the Windhand interview today or review a record and I decided with their tour starting tonight, that was the way to go. Next week I’ll get to that Sandrider album. I’m also in Jersey for the next couple days and I’ll be going to see Orange Goblin tomorrow night at St. Vitus, so look for a review of that on Monday.
It kills me that I’m not going to get to SHoD next weekend. I had been planning on going for a long time, and there are a lot of bands I want to see, but it’s a money thing. Gas for a nine-hour drive, then a room, food, etc., never mind whatever I’d be spending on merch throughout the weekend. The Patient Mrs. was gracious about it. She was like, “You can go and we’ll charge it,” but it wouldn’t be fair for me to do that. I’ll look forward to the next The Eye of the Stoned Goat fest, which got its first announcement yesterday.
And there’s plenty to do in the meantime. In addition to the Sandrider and Orange Goblin reviews, I’ve got a full album stream set to go up on Monday from the German outfit Rising, whose last album was also streamed here. Nothing like symmetry. We’ll also continue the “10 Days of SHoD” coverage. I’m slated to jump on the phone with Dana Ortt from Beelzefuzz on Monday night, so maybe Tuesday or Wednesday I’ll get that posted. Looking forward to that.
As always, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. If you’re hitting up Orange Goblin in Brooklyn, I’ll see you there, and otherwise, back here Monday for more warm tones and rolling grooves. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Reviews on October 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
There are few who can claim the kind of commitment to doom that Iron Man guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III can claim. Largely ignored throughout their career, Morris has watched trends come and go, bands rise and fall, and has never wavered from his commitment to classic, riff-driven Sabbathian doom, tracing his roots all the way back to late ’70s rockers Force, out of whose demise Iron Man formed after an initial run as a Black Sabbath cover band. Iron Man proper made their debut with 1993′s Black Nighton Hellhound (reissue review here), and 20 years later, they emerge with the new South of the Earth on Metal Blade and Rise Above Records, Morris having stuck it out as the founder and heart of the band for all this time with what to this point has been little reward. From 1999′s Generation Void to 2007′s SubmissionEP, Iron Man was on hold as a studio outfit, but since ’06, the band has been vigorous in remaking their name in the realms of doom, Morris‘ tone ever at the fore. South of the Earthfollows their 2009 full-length, I Have Returned(review here), and a series of EPs including the John Brenner of Revelation-recorded Iron Man Shall Rise(discussed here) in 2010, 2011′s Dominance (review here), and last year’s Att hålla dig över, which was the first Iron Man outing to feature the complete lineup of Morris on guitar and Louis Strachan (who joined in 2006) on bass alongside vocalist “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann. Waldmann was the last to come aboard, and his presence obviously makes a clear difference in the results on South of the Earth‘s steady grooving 50 minutes, giving Morris the space to blast out bluesy improvised leads to comport with his long-underrated top notch riffing — see “IISOEO (The Day of the Beast)” — while Strachan punishes his frets on madman bass runs and Calhoun hosts the proceedings like a über-metal storytelling master of ceremonies.
Still, even with the change in drummer, or the change in vocalist for that matter — Calhoun having come in after Iron Man split with Joe Donnelly following I Have Returned– there are clear audio signals throughout South of the Earth that Iron Man are working at a different level than they ever have before. A lot of that has to do with producer Frank “The Punisher” Marchand, who also helmed the last album but on South of the Earthbrings Iron Man‘s sound to new levels of professionalism and gives a stately feel even to the grit in Morris‘ tone, sacrificing none of the band’s heft or push, but bringing the songs to life in a manner clear, vibrant, and at times punishingly heavy. Essentially split into two halves surrounding the Iommi-esque interlude “Ariel Changed the Sky,” South of the Earth is not aiming to wow with its sonic diversity — it is a doom record by a doom band for doom heads, and if I can add to that: Doom, doom bloody doom — but moments of flourish occur periodically in songs like “A Whore in Confession” and “In the Velvet Darkness” enough to hold the listener’s attention while Iron Man ply their trade in grade A form, and they veer from the earlier, catchy songwriting modus in the second half to the more exploratory territory of “IISOEO (The Day of the Beast)” and the Lovecraftian “Half-Face/Thy Brother’s Keeper (Dunwich Pt. 2).” In direct comparison to I Have Returned, Calhoun‘s presence will likely be the standout marker of the new album. He earns his “Screaming Mad” early on with the opening title-track and subsequent single-worthy hook of “Hail to the Haze” — the analogy I’ve used since I first saw him with the band is he’s the Rob Halford to Joe Donnelly‘s Ozzy Osbourne — but in subdued, moodier parts like the opening verses of “The Worst and Longest Day,” he’s no less able to carry across deceptively complex melodies while sounding confident and assured both in his lyrics and delivery. As a frontman, his presence bleeds through even the recorded versions of the songs.
Like the album South of the Earthitself, which came out on Tuesday, Iron Man‘s new video for the song “Hail to the Haze” is a pro job. Sure, it’s a performance clip, but the shots of the band rocking out and the occasional nod from Louis Strachan or “Iron” Al Morris III (interview here) come through not lazily captured or amateurish, but professionally and crisp. They’re doing it up for the camera a bit, and that’s fun, but really, it’s just cool to see Iron Man making a go of supporting South of the Earth, their first release through Metal Blade/Rise Above.
As previously announced, Iron Man will make their UK debut later this year at Rise Above‘s 25th anniversary festival, and I can’t think of a better time for them to do it. With frontman Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann alongside Strachan and Morris, the band are at their best yet, and though it feels like a long time coming, the praise they’re reaping is nothing if it’s not due them.
Look out for a review of South of the Earthnext week, and in the meantime, here’s “Hail to the Haze,” produced and edited by Will Cline of Powergridstudios. Enjoy:
Iron Man, “Hail to the Haze” official video
Taken from the brand new album, South of the Earth on Rise Above Records.
See the legendary Iron Man performing exclusively at the Rise Above Records 25th Anniversary shows. The event takes place on December 27th/28th at The Garage, London.
Other artists performing include – Blood Ceremony, Horisont, Troubled Horse, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell + more to be added.
“Lotus Jam” is the second official video from Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled The Church Within Records debut album (review here), which was released last month, and if they continue to make clips for each track in this fashion, you can pretty much rest assured that I’ll post all of them. This one follows “Reborn” (posted here), and keeps a similar blend of performance footage, psychedelic lighting and spliced in still photos, fitting the trio’s progressive, individualized style of doom.
If I haven’t said so in five minutes, the record is stellar and you should hear it. “Lotus Jam” is among the more upbeat cuts on offer, but represents that side of Beelzefuzz‘s sound well and finds guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt recounting a suitably epic narrative over the steady groove of his riffs, Pug Kirby‘s bass and Darin McCloskey‘s drums, and the three coming together to enact a high-quality hook that stands with the record’s best.
I’m hoping to get an interview with these guys together over the next couple weeks, so stay tuned for that, but in the meantime, here’s “Lotus Jam,” directed by Pat W. Dougherty of CineMavericks Media and ready for the digging:
Iron Man, “The Worst and Longest Day” from South of the Earth (2013)
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Press play above to hear “The Worst and Longest Day” from Iron Man‘s new album, South of the Earth. Set for release on Oct. 1 through Metal Blade in North America and Sept. 30 on Rise Above in Europe, Iron Man‘s fifth full-length overall and first for the two mentioned imprints re-teams them with producer Frank “The Punisher” Marchand, who recorded 2009′s I Have Returned. Though the two outings have that in common and they’re united by the inimitable, smoke-on-the-finish tone of guitarist and band founder “Iron” Alfred Morris III, they’re nonetheless vastly different offerings from the long-running and long-underappreciated Maryland doom stalwarts.
Primarily in lineup. A change in the frontman position back in 2011 saw “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun enter the fold in place of the departed Joe Donnelly, and though it was clear from the first searing high notes of the 2011 Dominance EP that Calhoun lived up to his name as a singer of Halfordian power, it wasn’t until Iron Man brought drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann into the rhythm section alongside longtime bassist Louis Strachan that the South of the Earthlineup would be complete. Taking to the stage almost immediately, Iron Man soon became a new force in the live setting, also releasing the Att hålla dig över EP as the first output with the Morris, Strachan, Calhoun and Waldmann lineup to keep their momentum going into the recording of the new long-player.
But the differences on South of the Earth go well beyond the simple matter of personnel. Full in sound and crisply professional, Iron Man‘s latest serves as an arrival point for Morris‘ years of riff-slinging. With the validation of a release through Metal Blade/Rise Above behind them, Iron Man stand poised to take their place at the forefront of the American doom consciousness as a band that have never wavered from their purpose or, no matter who’s involved, sacrificed their loyalty to the Sabbathian traditionalism that served as their founding principle when they emerged out of Morris‘ prior outfit, Force, in the late ’80s. Top quality riffs, undeniable grooves and Calhoun‘s glass-shattering pipes make South of the Earthunlike anything Iron Man has released in years gone by — and their other records, whether it’s the 1993 Black Nightdebut, 1994′s The Passage, 1999′s Generation Void or I Have Returned, already kicked considerable ass. As a band, they’re simply at another level.
And they know it. In the interview that follows, Morris speaks with confidence about their stage presence, the writing and recording of “The Worst and Longest Day” and the rest of South of the Earth, Iron Man‘s impending UK debut this December at the two-day Rise Above 25th anniversary party in London and much more, giving the impression not of arrogance, but of someone whose decades of experience bleeds into everything he and his band does. Whatever notoriety or attention Iron Man are able to gain as a result of the new album upon its release, it will be well earned, by both past and current efforts.
As it happens, Iron Man are doing a track-by-track through the album this week on their Thee Facebooks page, and today’s is “The Worst and Longest Day.” You’d almost think it was planned out (it wasn’t). Here’s what they had to say about the track:
“I left you alone long enough for your guard to die…”
TRACK FOUR: THE WORST AND LONGEST DAY
Another track that is swampy and mean, “The Worst and Longest Day” is as unsettling in subject as it is heavy in delivery. Heavy guitars and soaring vocals ride atop a bouncy rhythm section, and drag you through a cold monologue, delivered by the thing that vexes you.
Special thanks to Metal Blade and to Rise Above for allowing me to premiere “The Worst and Longest Day.” Please find the Q&A after the jump and enjoy.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Warms my otherwise frigid heart to see Iron Man making good. The long-underappreciated stalwarts of Maryland doom have announced that they’ll play their first show ever in the UK at Rise Above Records‘ two-day 25th anniversary celebration, to be held just before the New Year in London. Fucking a. By then, the world will have gotten a taste of Iron Man‘s latest outing, South of the Earth(I’m not saying there’s a track premiere coming next week, but I’m not not saying it either), and to advance a review to come, let me just say the thing is a beast. Very doom, very metal, and of course propelled by the landmark tone of “Iron” Alfred Morris III, which has never come across so full or true to its live sound.
Keep it up, gentlemen. And safe travels.
Here’s the official word:
Iron Man CONFIRMED for Rise Above anniversary show exclusive performance!!!
Yes, we are beyond pleased to announce the debut UK appearance from this legendary underground Doom Metal institution! Flights are booked and band leader Al Morris III is as delighted as we are: “I am very excited and honoured to be playing at The 25th Anniversary of Rise Above Records!!! The HEAVIEST record label on earth!!! It will be great to see all of the fans and the Iron Man label mates as well!!! Get ready for a very HEAVY performance!!!!”.
Iron Man’s debut album for Rise Above Records, South of the Earth, is due for release on September 30th. Vinyl pre-orders will go on sale next week. Video for Hail to the Haze will also be ready to view early next week.
Further line up announcements and billing info for the Anniversary shows will be coming in the weeks ahead.
The event takes place 27th/28th December at The Garage, London. Tickets for event go on sale Wednesday 25th September at 9am. Link coming shortly.
Iron Man, “The Worst and Longest Day” Live in Maryland, 2013
Posted in Reviews on August 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s really no getting around it: Beelzefuzz have a silly name. It’s a silly name that’s been kicking around the heart of the Maryland doom scene for the last couple years, and across two demos and appearances at fests like Stoner Hands of Doom, Eye of the Stoned Goat and Days of the Doomed, as well a regular host of other gigs in and around the Frederick, MD, sphere, it’s a silly name that has come with an increasingly potent reputation. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (the latter also of Pale Divine) have quickly hit on an individual approach, rooted in a deeply melodic, progressive wizard doom that’s brought to life on stage through live double-tracking of Ortt‘s vocals and a range of effects that show up on the album as well, from the dense classic-heavy fuzz of Kirby‘s bass to compression on the singing and some manner of alchemy in the guitar that turns it into a Hammond organ. All of this enriches and deepens the atmosphere live as well as on Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled debut full-length, released by The Church Within Records, and quickly into the album, it becomes clear that Beelzefuzz are offering something different from the standard post-TheObsessed/Pentagram riff-and-chug of Maryland doom. Certainly those elements are there, but whether it’s the gallop that begins the album with opener and highlight “Reborn” or the more stoner shuffle that drives “Sirens Song,” Beelzefuzz present their material in such a way as to create an aesthetic of their own from these familiar parts — as much as one could reasonably hope for from a single record and more than one could generally ask of a debut. Across a relatively brief eight-track/36-minute span, the band casts a richly melodic ambience that’s somewhat thicker tonally than they have been live in my experience, but recorded largely by the venerable Chris Koslowski, it still represents the quirk in their turns and the breadth of their influence well, Ortt emerging as a frontman presence even without the benefit of the widened eyes with which he often regards his audience from the stage. There are flashes of complex brilliance, as “Hypnotize” and “Lonely Creatures” can attest, and even in the shorter, more straightforward pieces like “Lotus Jam” and “Sirens Song,” Beelzefuzz don’t sound quite like anyone or anything else out there. Silly name or not, they’re something special.
While that’s true, there’s also very little about them that’s flashy, or that seems intent on reinventing the genre from whence they come. Because of the deeply developed aesthetic and because of how strong their grip on it is as they play through what it’s somewhat shocking to think of as their first album, I’m inclined not to think they’re not aware of what they’re doing musically, but perhaps Beelzefuzz‘s goal isn’t innovation so much as having a good time and this is simply how they do it. If that’s the case, it bodes doubly well going forward, but in the meantime, with their self-titled the three-piece keeps to a consistent atmosphere that’s both dense and doomly but still somewhat hopeful, a dark, dank room that lets light in when the sun hits just the right position. Ortt can’t resist a medieval-drinking-song rhythm for the verses of “All the Feeling Returns” and I hear nothing in the track that would make me want him to, and by the time they get around to the penultimate “Lunar Blanco,” the brooding transitions and tension-release chorus seem to be a methodology they’ve long since mastered. Several of these songs appeared on their demos — “Reborn,” “Lotus Jam,” “All the Feeling Returns,” “Lunar Blanco” and closer “Light that Blinds” — but the professional production adds heft and the band’s subsequent gigging experience shows itself in an overarching confidence audible from the earliest thrust of “Reborn,” which gets underway started by McCloskey as the guitar and bass feedback and soon opens to an immediate mover of a verse. An otherworldly feel — not psychedelic, but far from terrestrial — pervades immediately and is maintained over the course of the record, but what really stands “Reborn” out from its surroundings and makes is such an effective opener is the strength and resonance of its hooks, which arrive in both verse and chorus resulting in a whole that, with lyrics nodding at Spirit Caravan (“I wanted to experience the elusive truth…”), immerses the listener in the environment that Beelzefuzz have crafted: A dewy pre-dawn set in shades of blue and grey and green. The album isn’t short on memorable stretches, but they picked the right one to put first, and “Lotus Jam” follows well with interwoven layers of guitar and bass over a steady beat, Ortt‘s vocals taking a commanding tone for the chorus, “Your wicked warriors turn to dust/The sands of time would never wait/The metal legions lie in rust/Mortality accept your fate.”
Best of all on Beelzefuzz, “Lotus Jam” emphasizes the band’s ability to turn a straightforward verse/chorus structure into something that’s both classic sounding and fresh. They show a weirder side in “All the Feeling Returns,” foreshadowing some of the shifts they’ll make soon enough on “Hypnotize” and “Lonely Creatures,” and had I not seen them live, I’d probably credit the depth of tone and layering in Ortt‘s vocals to studio flash, but it’s not. With Kirby and McCloskey holding together a build in the chorus, the music suddenly cuts out mid-”yeah,”which Ortt cuts sharply to allow for instrumental resurgence. It’s one of those moments on the record — and there are a few — that’s a small thing that goes a long way in cluing the listener in to how developed Beelzefuzz already are; no doubt so many vocalists would’ve held that “yeah” till their voices gave out. Ortt serves the song better by cutting it, allowing for a full pause before the next verse starts. In its midsection, “All the Feeling Returns” transitions to a dreamier break, the title-line delivered along the way, and though it doesn’t return to the verse and chorus it came from, the turn is still flowing enough to make sense. The line “Softly we fell through the sky” ends with an effect that seems to make the final word shine, and a section of chugging guitar and more subdued vocals ensues, McCloskey opening up on his crash as Kirby keeps his bass in lockstep march with the guitar until the ending cymbal wash and rumble carries into the slide that starts the quiet intro to “Sirens Song.” Kirby feels more present in the mix initially because the guitar is softer and the vocals, when they come in, match, but as the track approaches the minute mark and its shuffle takes hold, a balance is struck. Vocally, Ortt puts off some of the soulful belting-it-out he’s shown thus far in favor of a quieter take that lends depth to the band’s aesthetic overall — neither he nor they need to do the same thing all the time. Once the groove arrives, Beelzefuzz stick to it in both verses and choruses for most of the remainder, but some choice prog soloing late into the track adds flair and, again, depth as they wind down to the final crashes, a full stop giving “Hypnotize” a bed of silence on which to unwind its creepy introduction.
As posted on the forum, Iron Man will issue their new album, South of the Earth, on Oct. 1 in North America via Metal Blade. Rise Above is handling the UK and Europe, and the Metal Blade match is a good one, since guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III‘s previous band, Force — out of which Iron Man gradually emerged — released their only EP in 1981, a year before the label formed. Both have been through some pretty significant changes since then, but they’re still going strong, and if the megafuzz on Morris‘ guitar on the track “Hail to the Haze” is anything to go by, Iron Man might just be going their strongest yet.
South of the Earth is the band’s first long-player withDee Calhoun up front. And as advertised, he’s right out there. Pipes for days and the song has a hook to match. But as ever, a goodly portion of Iron Man‘s power resides in its rhythm section, whether it’s the punch of Louis Strachan‘s bass or the straightforward thrust of Jason “Mot” Waldmann‘s drumming, “Hail to the Haze” is a mover and it’s no mystery why. As much of the focus will reside (rightly) with Morris‘ tone and however much Calhoun‘s more-steel-than-your-favorite-skyscraper vocals will demand the attention of anyone listening, it’s the complete package that results in the fistpump-worthy doom metal of “Hail to the Haze.”
That’s not even to mention the production on the track, which is leaps and bounds ahead of even where Iron Man were with I Have Returned in terms of overall fullness. And I thought that record sounded pretty good. This only makes me look forward to hearing South of the Earth more and getting to know the material better live.
Iron Man, “Hail to the Haze” from South of the Earth (2013)