December 20, 2005 | | 4

Early Man, Closing In

Typically, I like to listen to an album a good 10-15 times before forming an opinion on it for this site. Sometimes, my initial gut reaction is enough, but many times I don’t find myself really starting to enjoy a release until several months, and several listens, after purchasing it. This, however, is not one of those times.

Early Man‘s latest, Closing In, invoked several reactions instantly from the first listen. So much so that I almost wanted to write about it shortly after that initial playing. I’ve now listened to this album probably five times and each time, I get the almost same reactions. This is one hell of a no frills metal album.

Musically, this band brings plenty to the table. It’s pretty easy to hear who they’ve been inspired by as well. There are the doomy riffs of Black Sabbath, the galloping guitar work of the thrashy power metal bands of the 80’s, and even some of Wino’s The Obsessed doomy crustiness in there. Vocally, lead singer Mike Conte has a style very reminiscent of a young Ozzy, but with the ability to hit those higher Dickenson wails. It makes for quite a combination.

Track 1: Four Walls. The album starts off with a great thrashy power chord that lets you know right away that this is pure metal. My initial impression of Conte’s vocals was not positive. I didn’t think that his style fit the guitars and intense drumming. I was wrong. After listening to this release several times, his voice was made for these riffs.

Track 2: War Eagle. This is where I instantly thought of Ozzy as Conte started crooning on this track. This track is modern day Sabbath if ever I heard it with the added bonus of some power metal wails. We hear our first “solo” on the album as well. It’s not your typical old school 80’s guitar picking. It’s barely even a solo it fits in so well with the overall flow of the song. With lyrics based in fantasy and the rolling gallop of the riffs, this song harkens back to style that hasn’t been in my CD tray in quite some time. Good stuff!

Track 3: Death Is The Answer. Again, the early Sabbath influences shine through with what could be seen as homage to Electric Funeral. Doomy vocals and riffs add to the overall gloom of this track. It’s also one of the slower paced tracks on the album. But that doesn’t last long as the pace shifts into high gear about 2 minutes into it.

Track 4: Feeding Frenzy. I can’t imagine the band following up that last track too successfully, but I’m wrong as usual. The groove and flow on this album continues with another galloping riff fueled number. The gallop in this one reminds me of early Testament (The Legacy era), but slowed down a bit.

Track 5: Thrill Of The Kill. Man, these dudes love Black Sabbath. If the beginning to this song isn’t Fairies Wear Boots re-incarnate, I don’t know what is. The crazy thing is that as similar as this is to Fairies…, there’s still plenty of originality to it. It’s not just a mimic of that classic. There is a great catchy chorus to this one that’s pretty softly sung, but doesn’t take from the momentum of the overall album.

Track 6: Like A Goddamn Rat. This track has a great quick paced gallop to it that’s sure to get the blood flowing. A simple echo added to the vocals actually adds a nice touch to this one.

Track 7: Fist Shaker. Conte changes up his delivery a bit with this one. It’s got more of a spoken/chanted feel to it than the previous tracks. It’s not an unwelcome change. It just seems a bit of an odd shift after six tracks with the same style. This one has a pretty catchy chorus as well.

Track 8: Evil Is. Cymbal work on the drums leads into a pretty heavy riff that got my head banging instantly. And then we’re greeted with early Metallica James Hetfield!? No, it’s still Conte, with another shift in his delivery. The guitars in this one have a great old school thrash feel. And we actually hear our first full on solo — as short lived as it is. This is by far my favorite track on the album.

Track 9: Brain Sick. Some great guitar work leads this one off into one of the cleaner, less doomy riffs. Conte comes back to his original vocal delivery. No matter how many times I hear it, his voice reminds me of a young Ozzy. It’s uncanny.

Track 10: Contra. How many really good metal power chords can you fit into one album? So far, for Early Man… a shit load. Conte’s vocal delivery on this track gives it a bit of a punk feel at times. It’s got a muffled effect on it in some instances. This is also one of the slower paced tracks.

Track 11: Raped And Pillaged. The final track on Closing In wraps up the album just as powerfully as it opened up with “Four Walls.” It’s got more crust and thrash to it than most of the other tracks, hopefully sharing a little something to look forward to in their next release.

I found this album a welcome change to the death metal and hardcore that I have been listening to the past couple of months. I haven’t listened to an album this fun in some time. If you’re looking for a modern day Black Sabbath with some 80’s thrash and originality, then get this damn album.

Favorite Tracks:
Four Walls
Death is the Answer
Like a Goddam Rat
Evil Is

Additional Notes: