Editorials

EARLY MAN: THE BEST THRASH BAND IN BROOKLYN, USA

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Early ManHuge statement. Right? Huuuge muthafuckin statement, especially from a guy who’s not even really into thrash. But there’s something about music that works so well for what it is that can transcend genre preferences.

You hate folk music? Look me in the eye and tell me that Simon and Garfunkel ain’t the prettiest damn SHIAT you ever dun heard.

Think funk is for hippies and hairsprayed chicks from New Jersey? Remember back to that one party/night at the bar that you got perfectly drunk enough to dance “really well” and remind yourself that James Brown was your messiah at that moment in time.

All turntablists are posers and they should try real instruments? Duude….DJ Shadow will make you believe.

Which leads me back to my main point, that a truly magnificent band/musician/artist ought to be able to not only hook you as a lifelong follower of their music/art but furthermore compel you to revisit any reservations you may have previously had about their given genre.

For example, I have never been a huge subscriber of the thrash metal subgenre; I like my metal tight, melodic, groove heavy, exploratory, and (mostly) at speeds below 200 bpm. But there’s something about the band Early Man that makes me rethink my previous biases and realize that hells yes I can get down with some thrash….it’s all music, right? And any band that defiantly exclaims “FUCK YOU if you’re talking to me,” well those guys are straight-up metal, nawmean? Thrash-hate gets thrown to the wayside because it becomes irrelevant–this music simply rocks.

And isn’t that what we want from our favorite bands, in a way? The ability to make believers out of nonbelievers? Especially when it comes to metal and its varying subgenres–there’s no other genre (besides country) that divides people more, alienates more befuddled parents, and leaves an immensely large population of friends, colleagues, and lovers asking “how the bloody hell could you listen to that?” I’ve never cleared a room full of non metalhead “rockers” faster than the time I put on Meshuggah at a party, sat back, and watched those fuckers flee.

Extreme examples aside, it’s frustrating to no end that most newcomers or outsiders to aggressive music not only need to get past the abrasive aesthetic qualities of metal or hard rock that turn so many off but also usually need to be thoroughly convinced that this particular genre of music is worth their time or efforts to simply try to understand. And the fact that there are so many levels and variations of not only metal but every goddamn musical genre often leaves those in the know chuckling at any newbie’s surface level assessment of both the particular band in question as well as THE ENTIRE GENRE THAT BAND FALLS INTO. If only they knew…

So as a music lover and an open-minded thinker, I for one fully appreciate when a band comes along that can either a) give me pause about my own reservations and force me to reconsider my viewpoint or b) arm me with ammo–in this case music– that I can turn around with, present to all naysayers, and confidently exclaim “You see?!? Tell me this shit ain’t awesome…”

Early Man is one of those bands, and I predict that their next record is going to cement their status as one of the best new metal bands around presently.

But they’re actually not new at all. They’ve been out there for almost five years now, doing their thing, plugging away, playing shows here and there, refining their precise attack and keeping it REAL. In those years, they went from being a strictly underground outfit, to getting signed by indie juggernaut Matador, to playing at the Slint-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties, as well as limited runs opening for Mastodon and the Melvins.

I first caught them live randomly in 2003, when they were still a two-piece (now three)–just guitar/vocals and drums–opening for a decent aggressive prog band called Panthers, at the now-defunct hipster hideaway Mighty Robot in Southside Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Early Man stood out immediately–reminiscent of everything you thought was awesome about metal when you were in sixth grade. Even as a two-piece, their musical sensibilities came across in the songwriting–these guys, albeit technically a throwback band, are doing something extremely powerful and if not new, then at least timeless. Even back in ’03, they demonstrated a profound ability to capitalize on what was retro-y about thrash, without for a second sounding like they they were simply imitators. I doubt I was the only one that night who felt like he had discovered a new treasure.

So naturally I then checked out their recordings, which were extremely limited at the time. Back then, they only had a three song EP that almost captured that feeling from the show. But not quite.

When they released their first full-length, entitled Closing In, I of course tracked down a copy but again was slightly disappointed. The tracks were fine, but I was seeking KICKASS. Was this to be one of those think-it’s-awesome-at-the-show-but-realize-later-they’re-only-passable scenarios? Perhaps…

Cut to 3 years later, almost one year ago now–October 2006, CMJ Music Marathon week in NYC. After chasing a broken-up-by-the-cops party to three different Brooklyn warehouse venues in the hopes of seeing Genghis Tron play live, we were again thrust out on the street by the po-po, and the infamous Johnny T-Byrd insisted that we take the treacherous drive into Manhattan to catch the 3am secret Early Man set at Fontana’s. Obviously I was down, but at that point I had no idea just how down I was about to become.

In the few years since I had last seen them play, Early Man had added another member (making the lineup guitar, drums, guitar/vocals), and somehow the personnel addition/time since I had last seen them play had added light years to their sound–the band sounded like what truly dynamic thrash should be. Their dual-guitar harmonies were spot-on every time, the bare-bones thunderous riffage was tight as could be, the perfectly simple yet totally skilled drummer fell completely in line without being too flashy at any point, and the Ozzy-like vocals soared in and out at just the right moments. These were carefully constructed songs, anyone could easily tell, and yet each tune unfolded as naturally as could be, never feeling like the slightly progressive undertones were overwritten or overplayed. These extremely deft players truly understood how far a simple riff could go.

In short, this band RULEZ, and their recent show at Europa Club in Greenpoint, Brooklyn perpetuated my already-awed perspective of their prowess.

Again, Dr. T-Byrd and I made the scene, arriving perfectly in time to catch the recently reunited (after 15 years!) militant metal band At War, who proudly displayed a FUCKING MACHINE GUN atop the drum cage. As if a drum cage wasn’t metal enough, these guys were brandishing artillery, for fuck’s sake!

The infamous J. T-B was infamously broke, but I was sitting plush with a royal flush and gladly hooked my brethren UP, buying us round after round of the darkest whiskey-poison at the bar. This was Early Man, after all, a rare occurrance these daze, and shouldn’t we get appropriately blotto for the fleeting, finer things in life?

Naturally, Early Man did not disappoint–the band sounded as tight as a grade-school Mormon, and that same epic energy was present in every damn tune they played. To be completely honest, this time around there were a few moments that I definitely noticed the absence of a bass player, but those moments came and went pretty quickly, and the members themselves are way too smart to not be aware of the lack of bottom end, so I imagine that minor gap will evolve and be filled in the near future. To their credit, with most bands that are bass-less, the moments when that aspect is noticeable is usually tenfold more.

But that’s hardly worth harping on–again these guys were stellar, and again I felt like I was in on the ground level of something that is poised to EXPLODE.

If you’re aware of the Early Man army, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re not, rest assured you will be. Cause the next time these guys come out of the gates, they ain’t gonna be takin no prisoners.

-KW

Here’s an early Early Man track (the first off their original 3-song demo) that will give you an idea of their style, but don’t be surprised when you see them live and their sound has evolved so much that you shart yr pants:

Download: Early Man – “Fight!” mp3

[Visit Early Man on MySpace]

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