Austin quintet Iron Age are the band that your mother warned you about. The average matriarch would be upset to find her offspring falling in with the miscreants of the metal scene or embracing the heavy-handed world of hardcore, but Iron Age rub salt in that wound by plying their trade straight down the middle. Treading ground stomped upon by the Cro-Mags and Metallica decades before, the fearsome fivesome melds hardcore chug with fleet-fingered solos and vocals well informed of the Hetfield and Kilmister school of throat node cultivation. Whether you consider it metal or hardcore, The Sleeping Eye is quite the crusher of a record.
Opening with a couple moments of ambiance, The Sleeping Eye is quick to ride a feedback squeal into a new age of quarrel called “The Sleeping Eye of the Watcher”. In and of itself, the title is pretty metal, but if there was any question, the song’s six-minute length and two ripping solos will assert Iron Age as being more than compliant with all current metal regulations. “Dispossessed” plays the Motorhead card, chugging along like a satanic locomotive and leaving chunks of vocal cord in its wake. Iron Age know their roots, but have absolutely no problem pushing the envelope for the 21st century. The Sleeping Eye takes an artier path than the average crossover release, having little issue with placing a two-and-a-half-minute ambient piece in the middle of the record, then launching into a Kill ‘Em All-approved track like “A Younger Earth”, where doomy verses are arc-welded onto late ‘80s thrash parts. You can almost smell the Marlboros and white high-top Reeboks.
Production values are the Achilles heel of the average crossover record. More often than not, crossover hardcore/metal records feature the worst aspects of both genres, with tons of midrange, tinny guitars, and drums that might well be cardboard boxes. The Sleeping Eye has no such issues. I bet Metallica wished they had the same guy behind the boards for their last opus. Trust me: whoever recorded this wants his name on it. Sonically, this is the kind of record that makes a producer’s reputation. That said, you can’t polish a turd, and it is more than obvious that Iron Age can play. The Sleeping Eye features little in the way of studio trickery. Each track is big and loud and clear without sounding like it was mixed by a cocaine-enabled Bob Rock, with drums that are absolutely thunderous and a twin-guitar attack that is more than formidable.
Built on a foundation of hardcore, but with a skeleton of pure metal, Iron Age is the cross-over equivalent of Wolverine from the X-Men. If these eight tunes that comprise The Sleeping Eye are any indication, the gents seem equally capable of tearing up big rooms as handily as they would house shows. If there is any justice in this world, we will be hearing a lot more from Iron Age and The Sleeping Eye in 2009. Bands should consider themselves forewarned: The new Iron Age will not be an era kind to lesser bands, hardcore or metal. Submit, or lie broken in their wake.
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// Notes from the Road
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