Sunday, January 17, 2021

album of the day:
Iron Man - Black Night

I'll admit, I completely missed the boat on Iron Man. A seminal doom metal band that emerged from the fertile MD/DC/VA scene, they were always written about fondly in metal magazines (though not in the same reverential way as Pentagram or The Obsessed). They also had the distinction of being one of the few doom metal bands with African Americans in its line-up - most notably, guitarist/founder Alfred Morris III, who was the band's only consistent member.

A few kind blurbs aside, it's understandable why I didn't explore Iron Man when I was younger. Doom metal was a niche within a niche for most of the Eighties and Nineties - with few exceptions, major labels and the larger indies were more interested in the emergent (and profitable) thrash, death, and groove metal scenes. Iron Man were relegated to obscure European labels like Hellhound and Black Widow, who resisted trends but whose releases were difficult to obtain. Plus, even by the low standards of indie metal, Iron Man's cover art was terrible - there was no way these early Photoshop abominations were going to persuade me to part with my cash (in fairness, few doom metal bands were lucky enough to work with Dave Patchett).

Black Night was Iron Man's debut, and perfectly encapsulates doom metal at its finest - oblivious to trends, with no goal other than to recreate the genius of early Black Sabbath (Iron Man had, in fact, started as a Sabbath tribute band). The production, bare bones as it is, captures the stomp of Morris' lead boot riffs. And singer Rob Levey (who later ran the Stoner Hands of Doom festival) delivers all his vocal lines in an Ozzy-esque wail appropriate to both Iron Man's cover band roots and their stubborn refusal to deviate from a perfect recipe.

With a revolving line-up of collaborators, Morris would release 5 Iron Man albums (along with a number of EPs and live performances) before passing away at the age of 60. Though success ultimately eluded him, he was a pioneer of the "true" doom metal movement - a fringe-jacketed oddball who planted his feet in slow, bluesy riffs as the rest of the metal world sprinted towards an increasingly velocious horizon.