I feel that as a band, Iron Man has gained a megaton of momentum since their first release up to this new album, considering all their lineup changes. “South of Earth” has a climactic crush that ought to be opening for Judas Priest on their upcoming tour with their anthem-like presence. My first impressions were “good good grief” in response to “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun’s vocal assaults sharing the helm with Morris’ well-honed lead guitar that would both impress and validate his many influences (Tipton, Hendrix, Iommi, etc.). The bass is well-worthy of applause. One cannot ignore Louis Strachan’s attacks on the strings that feel a bit like Geezer’s walkabout bluesy lines mixed with Steve Harris’ fist-like fingertips. These guys are solid as a colossal iron asteroid hurling through space with a molten core. I had to take a breath between tracks, literally.
My favorite tracks off of the album are “A Whore in Confession” and “Ariel Changed the Sky”. I love “A Whore in Confession” for its screaming 70’s homage leads with plenty of fuzz and thumpy thick bass lines that function as an innuendo that tricks the listener into a false understanding of the song. Clever lyrics reveal a profound message about religion by the end of the song as opposed to a superficial, predictable, and shallow track, from which metal is already drowning in. The beefy snare and tom pummels with fluent cymbals that seems to drone together like one sustained crash – Jason “Mot” Waldmann provides an impenetrable exoskeleton rather than a simple backbone for this current lineup of Iron Man. “Ariel Changed the Sky” operates as a gorgeous and melodious interlude in the middle of the album that displays the band’s and Morris’ versatility as a musician. I found it flawless. It would have been cool if “Ariel Changed the Sky” opened into something else more developed or had more of a gap time between tracks. I was taken by surprise when the next tack started after being entranced by “Ariel”!
Critically, I would say that the track, “Half-Face/Thy Brother’s Keeper (Dunwich pt. 2)” is the least stunning with its cliché Lovecraft theme that I could not help but find a bit boring. That’s just my literature nerd coming out though, I think. I always felt like Lovecraft’s stories were cheapened with lyrics in music. Lovecraft’s stories were framed with subtlety, so when his stories are reorganized and interpreted with an exchanged obviousness for subtlety, I can’t help but get critical. Onward. “The Ballad of Ray Garraty” caused me to cringe during a few vocal points that felt sharp. If this was intended, bravo. I do not mean to impose artist intent. If not intended, I would encourage Dee Calhoun to explore and experiment with his vocal volume knob. The man has power, it is undeniable. However, I feel the theatrics that his voice exemplifies, with its consistancy of quality, suffer because he has few volume settings and expressions. While it is tempting to make comparisons, I will resist and simply say that the greatest vocal performances have an element of surprise which is achieved by vocal inconsistencies: e.g. whispering vocals, rising volume, descending, silence shattering screams, emotion, etc. “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun’s got chops, no doubt but his theatrics could use an acting lesson or two. I am no vocal coach but since Judas Priest has already been mentioned and is a clear influence, I would suggest “The Ripper” (both studio and “Unleashed in the East” versions) as a vocal exercise because of its myriad dynamic and emotional expressions. I mean only the best in my criticisms and hope that they are received constructively by readers and members of the band, for I have nothing but respect for these fine musicians and performers. Support the arts and go buy this album now! You will not regret it! I am aghast that these fine gentlemen are not more well-known, especially with Morris and Calhoun laying out metal like a super-massive steam roller with jet engines! We all hope this lineup stays strong!