Album Reviews

Early Man – Closing In

(Matador) UK release date: 10 October 2005

Early Man - Closing In Evolution is not necessarily a good thing you know. Admittedly, certain things such as the opposable thumb and a bit of know how when it comes to fire are a positive boon. After all, having no thumb makes it pretty hard to hold a guitar, and no fire means no point of reference when it comes to riffing and lyrics about fire.

Metal has, of course, accelerated through its evolution. Many would probably attest that it never really got too much further than understanding the wheel and would then point to the fact that many of its protagonists are still largely covered in hair. Anyone with more than a passing interest in Metal would know that it really has moved on. It became sophisticated, added extra strings to guitars and swapped knuckleheaded riffing for overcomplicated noodling. With the neuroses of bands like Korn, Metal bands no longer satisfied base needs and celebrated things like sex and drugs and rock and roll. Instead, Metal turned inward, discovered ‘feelings” and became more New Man than Neanderthal Chap in leathers.

Thank God for the likes of Early Man‘s Mike Conte and Adam Bennati then, whom, apparently due to the nature of their upbringing, never had any idea that Metal was now quietly blubbing in a corner rather than foaming at the mouth and tearing around on a Harley. Closing In takes us back to a time when bands wrote songs about Black Nights, Beelzebub, and then perhaps a paean to their favourite drug of choice. Mike Conte’s voice is the first thing to grab your attention. He sounds so similar to Ozzy that you have to check that it isn’t some kind of publicity stunt to make Mr Osbourne relevant again. After all not only has Metal evolved, but many of its founding fathers are drifting toward the void (as they would no doubt call it) of old age. Who would have foreseen a day when Ozzy was most famous for being married to Sharon Osbourne – a judge on a talent show?

Early Man remind us of the days when he was shooting chickens, biting heads off of bats and pissing up the Alamo. Not only that, but they’ve got a stock of riffs that Tony Iommi would be proud of. Every track on the album seethes, and broods. They chug in a thoroughly satisfying manner, cutting a stoned groove not seen since the early days of the mighty Black Sabbath. That they can create such a heavy sound with just two people is nothing short of genius.

There are of course other reference points, there’s the galloping rhythm of Iron Maiden, the Bay area Thrash of Metallica, and the ridiculous overblown soloing of The Fucking Champs. All of these elements combine to make for an engaging album, and one that awakens an innate need for simple thrills. Early Man are the kind of band that could save metal from extinction, and with Closing In they suggest that the only way forward is to start heading backwards.

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