IRON AGE – The Sleeping Eye

IRON AGE – The Sleeping Eye

The 1980s thrash metal era is one of the most respected and cherished periods among heavy metal maniacs. Bands such as Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer helped shape the thrash metal scene. Many attempted to tap into that vein in vain, but this Texan quintet makes a quite convincing case on the re-release of their 2nd LP classic, sounding neither antiquated nor too derivative.

Iron Age was formed in Austin, Texas, in 2004, debuting a year later with eponymous demo. Youngblood Records released the debut full length, "Constant Struggle" in the following year, but for the 2nd LP, "The Sleeping Eye" (2006), the Texans moved to Tee Pee Records. Five years later, after the release of "Saga Demos", Iron Age fell asleep for a year, reactivated in 2012 and once more went on a hiatus until 2015 when they reactivated, presently as Jason Tarpey (vocals), Chris Ulsh (guitars), Wade (guitars), Ribs (bass) and Jared (drums). This year, 20 Buck Spin re-released "The Sleeping Eye" with a new, much more interesting cover.

Iron Age play an interesting blend of old Metallica, Megadeth and early Corrosion of Conformity, with some early Machine Head/Biohazard and modern Mastodon/High On Fire influences. The material on this LP is very well written, ranging from ferocious, at times very technical, thrash to doomy traditional heavy metal a’la Black Sabbath. I like the 1,2 punch of "The Sleeping Eye" and "Dispossessed" for two of the best tracks, which, together with "Burden Of Empire" give me a serious Megadeth/Metallica kick to the extent, that were these bands to release something of that quality today it would have been a phenomenal surprise, especially with Metallica presently stuck in a place they don’t seem to be able to get out of. In that sense, Iron Age gives the old geezers a run for their money. "Arcana Pt. I" is another standout, clearly with that "Ride The Lightening" flair but also heavily borrowing from the aforementioned Machine Head or even the more climactic, slower Slayer a’la ends of "South Of Heaven/Seasons In The Abyss". Instrumentally, too, Iron Age is a well oiled, proficiently technical machine.

What does not seem to work as well is when they get progressive. Why "The Way Is Narrow" needed such an elaborate, if slightly psychedelic, doomy intro and outro a’la debut Black Sabbath is beyond me as the ferocious thrash which follows almost seems out of place. As it’s usually the case with two-part tracks, Arcana would have been the best track on the album, had the two parts become one, especially since the point of their division is undetectable to anyone not looking at their player to notice the track change. Instead, "Arcana Pt. II" is inferior to its preceding 1st part, which is additional evidence the two should have been one. Another problem is the pure Prong-ian (complete with Tommy Victor-ian vocals) "A Younger Earth" which is great but criminally short and underdeveloped. Finally – the production, which makes guitars so crisp and annoyingly high in the mix, I had to lower the volume to actually enjoy it and, yes, I tried several different means of conveying the music, including two pairs of headphones. Sure, some may insist that that’s the way thrash ought to sound like but I respectfully disagree.

Instrumentally and technically proficient, "The Sleeping Eye" is mostly a very well written album, however with noticeable flaws. In any case, you can’t deny the spirit of the classic thrash days oozing from its every orifice and, if only for that reason, you should check this album out.