Entertaining old school influenced metal
While most metal acts are concerning with discovering new sounds and ideas in an attempt to ensure the continual evolution of the scene, there's a growing underground movement that having been looking back in order to find inspiration. The latest act to re-mine the classic N.W.O.B.H.M. (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) era is New York based duo Early Man. Originally from Columbus (Ohio), vocalist/guitarist/bassist Mike Conte finally joined forces once again with drummer Adam Bennati in 2003 (After having known each other previously from Columbus), and after refining their unique style and sound with several live performances throughout 2004, they entered the studio to record their first three-track demo E.P. (Which was released earlier this year through Monitor Records).
Through the strength of the E.P., Early Man soon signed to Matador Records, and with producer Matt Sweeney (Ex-Skunk/Chavez/Zwan, and who provides additional guitars to the duo) behind the console, they have finally released their debut outing Closing In. Early Man's music approach on Closing In is fairly unsophisticated old school thrash steeped in the N.W.O.B.H.M., without drifting into (Often unintentional) parody territory.
The opener Four Walls is full of wall to wall melodic thrash guitars with plenty of variation in the riff structures to keep the listener interested, while Conte's vocals sound like a cross between Black Sabbath era Ozzy Osbourne and Diamond Head's Sean Harris, with War Eagle following along the same lines, but with more of an Iron Maiden gallop evident throughout the verses. Making a reprisal from their E.P., Death Is The Answer (Shortened from the original title of Death Is The Answer To My Prayers) has been re-recorded for it's inclusion on the album, and seems all the stronger sounding for it. Easily one of the albums strongest tracks, the song begins as a tribute to doom legends Black Sabbath, before turning midway through to quicken the pace to reveal some great twin lead work.
There's more than a hint of early Metallica (Kill 'Em All era) in Feeding Frenzy, Evil Is, Brain Sick and the raw sounding Raped And Pillaged, while the grooving boogie feel of Thrill Of The Kill and the vocally manipulated Contra owe more to an obvious Black Sabbath inspiration. Although falling within the same retro/throwback field as Slough Feg's stunning Atavism (Released earlier in the year through Cruz Del Sur Music), Early Man's debut doesn't quite match the overall cohesiveness or consistency. But having said that, it certainly comes close at times, meaning that Closing In has more than its fair share of quality songs.
Early Man aren't cutting edge, or providing anything new within the realm of metal, but they do manage to entertain, and that's more than enough encouragement needed to check out Closing In.
(Matador Records/Remote Control Records/Inertia Distribution)