In recently describing third full length Eternal Steel from Texas based I Am, “angry music for angry times” rolled right off the tongue in that conversation. And simply put, that’s exactly what it is. The world’s a dumpster fire of epic proportions, greed and deceit are at the highest level ever, governments are a joke, everyone’s dollar has been reduced to mere pennies, and we’re one step away from a bomb going off on a scale none of us can even imagine. Eternal Steel feels like that moment just before detonation, that second when shit gets real, and the destructive aftermath. All rolled into one very pissed off album.
I Am got their furious ball rolling in 2017 with Life Through Torment. It was an album that dripped with hardcore aggression and oozed sweaty basement death metal. Barring the mix being slightly off and burying the midsection, it was a great full length debut that showed promise in spades. Then very quickly came follow up Hard 2 Kill the next year and this time out the mix was perfect, allowing the entire soundstage of this band’s onslaught to be heard and felt. It also ushered in a larger percentage of death metal and thrash in equal measure; borrowing from the wreck your neck groove of Obituary and the savagery of early Exodus, this second effort steamrolled the first. Through it all the one unifying thread on display was the vitriol and anger that seethed through every note.
Now here we are with Eternal Steel which ups the ante, and anger, in every possible way. Opener “The Primal Wave” wouldn’t be out of place on a Power Trip album due to its speed and ferocity and “The Iron Gate” sounds like a damn excellent ode to the aforementioned Obituary with its lumbering opening that gives way to savage death metal. “Vicious Instinct” sounds exactly like its title; it’s a no holds barred opportunity to hear the guitars laser a hole in the ozone while the drums crack the earth’s crust. I’ve yet to hear this band give space, outside of their collaborative attack, to showcase individual performances and here it works like a charm.
Elsewhere, “Heaven On Earth” rocks the doom button and sultry southern sludge like it’s mid August in the Florida swamps while “Price of Pain” is arguably the biggest mover and groover on the whole album. This ‘move and groove’ is stamped all over the album though and that’s one of many things that makes this, more than the last two, supremely memorable. And honestly that’s the only knock I’ve got on their last two efforts; while very good and very aggressive, you could hit play on many albums of the same ilk and get just what they were doing. Here, the death metal, hardcore, thrash, and southern groove all coalesce into a massive and gnarly beast that perfectly channels all of our, or at least my, angers and disbelief of present day bullshit that’s in our face from alarm clock to pass out.
Third time’s the charm for I Am and on Eternal Steel they’ve found the perfect recipe of anger and aggression, dead center of the pit destruction, damn memorable songs, and not one bad track amidst the bunch. For me it’s fond memories of finding a handful of like minded bands over many years and knowing I had just found something powerful enough to scream bloody gore to and check out of reality with for awhile. Those handful of bands at their moments in time just got it and rammed it to the hilt. And now, I Am gets it and are doing the same thing in their own way.