All my praises goes out to Leaf Hound Records for re-releasing some of the most important Doom Metal albums of all times. Among this classics we also find the two albums of IRON MAN, which have been released on Hellhound Records in the early 90's. Originally released in 1994 'The Passage' was the second album of this legendary Maryland band and it was the first one with an almost complete new line-up. Apart of Alfred Morris III, founder and guitarist of IRON MAN, bassist Larry Brown was the only remaining musician from the band's first line-up, while drummer Ron Kalimon joined Unorthodox and vocalist Rob Levey was fired and left the band into an unknown direction. The new vocalist was Dan Michalak, who was more a classic Heavy Metal singer and his individual vocals did fit much better to the band. Ron Kalimon has been replaced by Gary Isom, the man who later became the drummer of Pentagram, Spirit Caravan and many more groups. Despite the new line-up, this album is full of classic songs and for my taste, here's not one weak moment to find. Only the lyrics of 'Freedom Fighters' are still very odd for me and after fourteen years I still ask myself if some of the guys have watched the aweful movie 'Top Gun' for too many times. But even this low point can't damage the high status of the album. 'The Passage' is strongly obsessed by the spirit of early Black Sabbath and early Budgie, without sounding like a lame rip-off.
Therefore Alfred Morris III was always more interested in creating his own heavy music and every single album of IRON MAN is a honest evidence of his creative freshness and musical visions, which he shared with the other members of each line-up. The flow of the album is impressive and again the band redefined what it meant to be 'heavy'. This isn't meant as a critic about the other bands on Hellhound Records, but both IRON MAN albums were definitely the two heaviest releases on that label. The churning skull-crushing sound of Al's guitar and the head-smacking rhythms were more powerful than anything else Doom Metal had to offer in the year 1994 and each single song is catchy as hell. 'The Passage' was recorded at Hit & Run studios, together with Steve Carr and the weighty and majestically production is also very earthy and utterly powerful. The new version of this album is remastered by Michael Lindenauer, who's also the manager of the band and the result is really effective. There's no huge difference between both releases, but the re-release sounds a bit sharper and heavier. I think, it was also a good idea that Leaf Hound Records didn't alter the booklet and cover of the CD. It looks exactly like the old one, with exception of the page where the Hellhound back catalogue was printed. There you can find now an excerpt from the Leaf Hound catalogue. A real awesome idea! For the case that you've born too late to buy IRON MAN's second album in 1994 than you should do it right now! It's essential!