South Of The Earth A Welcome Return From Iron Man

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records/Rise Above Records

The Baltimore, Maryland based four-piece known as Iron Man has been making music for a number of years, flying just below the mainstream radar all along.  The band has been classified as a “doom rock” band for most of its career. However, its new album, South of the Earth is more akin to the sludge rock sound of Black Label Society, Brand New Sin, and the band’s label mates in Horisont.  The only real link to the “doom” genre would be the lyrical side of the band’s new album.  That being the case, this new nine-track release is one that any purist metal head will enjoy no less with each listen.

South of the Earth opens solidly with the album’s title track.  Whether one is familiar with the band’s sound or not, it is a powerful first impression from the band on this record.  Front man Screaming Mad Dee’s vocals sound like a cross between King’s X vocalist/bassist dUg Pinnick and legendary Black Label Society front man/guitarist Zakk Wylde.  That is quite the statement for anyone that is familiar with either singer.  For those that aren’t so familiar with either vocalist, suffice it to say that Dee is a powerhouse vocalist.  That his voice can go from almost guttural depths to ear-piercing screams in the blink of an eye without sounding like so many cookie monster growling figures makes an even bolder statement.  Bassist Louis Strachan and guitarist Alfred Morris III add even more punch to this song with their full-on one-two attack.  Morris’ solos in this song are the stuff that young guitarists dream of doing one day.  And drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann’s performance behind the kit shows such control in this slower song.  That show of control also shows just how much talent he boasts.  And along with his band mates, the whole unit makes the album’s opener one that will have listeners’ horns high instantly.

The energy doesn’t let up once the album’s opener ends.  The band picks right back up and keep things moving in the album’s second track, ‘Hail to The Haze.’  When Dee sings in the song’s chorus, “How much longer/How much longer/How much longer inside/Can this monstrosity hide/How much longer/How much longer/How much longer/Must I wait/To release my hate” the power in his voice does quite the job of exhibiting his subject’s personal inner struggle.  Again, add in the musicianship of his band mates, and listeners get what is one more shining gem off of South of the Earth.

South of the Earth is loaded with songs from start to finish that any true metal head will appreciate.  It boasts, as noted, both slower, heavier songs and pieces that are more up-tempo.  For all of its hard-hitting songs, there is one song that stands out among them all.  That song is the instrumental break that is ‘Ariel Changed The Sky.’  This roughly two-minute plus acoustic piece is a total contrast to everything else on this record.  It is a gentle, airy opus that gives listeners just enough time to catch their collective breath before the band launches into its full-on musical assault again on the record’s second half.  It is a perfectly placed break.  And it is equally beautiful.  It’s one more show of talent from the band, and one more example of what makes South of the Earth a record that any purist metal head will appreciate no matter how old.

South of the Earth is available now in stores and online on Metal Blade Records and Rise Above Records.  The band will be playing a hometown show next Sunday, October 13th in support of its new album.  It will be performing at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore alongside St. Vitus, Pallbearer, and Hookers.  The band has more dates to follow.  Fans can check them out on the band’s official website, http://www.ironmanband.com.  Fans can also get more information from the band on its official Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iron-Man-Band/146118265408361.

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Rundgren Re-Invents Himself Again On New LP

Courtesy:  Cherry Red Records/Esoteric Antenna

Courtesy: Cherry Red Records/Esoteric Antenna

If Beatallica’s new album, Abbey Load is the most intriguing album of 2013, then Todd Rundgren’s State is a direct runner-up to the title.  Rundgren continues his tradition of re-inventing himself yet again with this new album.  The album opens with what is best described as an ear-opening mix of Pink Floyd, Devin Townsend, and Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) in ‘Imagination.’  This is a fitting title for the song, especially being that it is the album’s opener.  Its mix of electronica and rock make it a song that will definitely get many listeners’ imaginations running wild with all kinds of images.  Rundgren’s vocals on this song sound like a mix of Devin Townsend and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree).  Whether or not it was intentional, the prog influences are there.  And at over eight minutes long, listeners are sure to find their own connections.  Regardless of the connections made, what can be sure of this song is that Rundgren shows just how much ‘imagination’ and creativity he still has.

‘Imagination’ is just the beginning of Rundgren proving that he still has plenty to offer his listeners on this new record.  The album’s second track, ‘Serious’ is just as imaginative and creative as the album’s opener.  It boasts a rather interesting funky electronica/rock hybrid sound.  The backing choruses of the song sound rather familiar, too like a much older funk tune.  And his screams are solid.  They are reminiscent of King’s X front man dUg Pinnick, strangely enough.  That combined with the song’s mix of sounds easily makes this another highlight to this new album.  It’s not just another dance/electronica song.  It’s a bridge between two musical worlds that could potentially bring fans of both electronica and dance together if only for about four minutes.

It’s not until the album reaches just past its halfway point that Rundgren goes full on techno.  ‘Smoke’ is sure to be an instant club hit with fans of the dance/electronica genre.  This is one of those types of songs that will bring down the lights, and bring out the black lights and mirror balls in clubs around the country.  Its keyboard part and solid two-four beat makes it an easily danceable song.  Of course that electronica vibe doesn’t last long as he goes back to a rock/electronica hybrid in ‘Collide-A-Scope’ before eventually making his way back to a full on techno vibe with the album’s penultimate song, ‘Party Liquor.’  This is sure to be another club hit with its keyboard part and up tempo beats and crowd chants.  What’s really interesting about this song is that at times, one can actually hear a hint of a disco influence throughout the song’s bridge section.  Forget the fact that the song is seemingly about alcohol.  It’s the song’s music that fans will really hear.  And it’s that music that audiences will enjoy.  Though there are more songs from which listeners can choose for their favorite.  This is just a sample of what makes the album stand out.  It will be available next Tuesday, April 8th in stores and online.  The physical CD and digital can both be pre-ordered now.  It can be pre-ordered via iTunes at http://smarturl.it/STATEiTunes and at http://smarturl.it/DeluxeCD for the physical CD.

Todd kicks off a tour in support of his new album next month at the Infinity Hall in Norfolk, VA.  It all kicks off May 8th.  He will have eight U.S. tour dates before heading overseas for a European tour through most of June.  And on June 23rd, he will be back stateside for the second leg of U.S. dates beginning at the House of Blues in New Orleans, LA on June 23rd.  Fans can get a full list of tour dates online at Rundgren’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/toddrundgren or on his official website, http://www.tr-i.com.

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