The son of a jazz musician growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, young Al gravitated towards music. A Eureka moment came after hearing Black Sabbath’s then-new Paranoid album, and he became infatuated with the heaviness and style of Tony Iommi’s guitar work.
In 1974, he got to see the Birmingham four when they came through Maryland, from no less a spot that right in front of Iommi, and decided he had to start a band of his own. The first of these bands to make a record were Force, who in 1981 released a four-track, self-titled EP that’s much sought after by doom fanatics. Then came Al’s next band, Rat Salad (spot the Sabbath reference…), who eventually changed their name to Iron Man (again...).
Originally a Sabbath cover band, it was when they began doing their own songs that Al started to really show what he could do with a guitar, and the band’s Black Night debut from 1993, and 1994’s The Passage albums are pure bluesy doom brilliance.
Up to present day, the band continued, albeit at a very slow pace, with years between shows and albums. But the respect their name holds in the doom scene is enduring. Al’s music was fantastic, but, like so many greats, there was something about his attitude and need to do this stuff that shone through his riffs just as much as his heavy, gorgeous guitar tone did.
Happily, the band’s final album, 2013’s South Of The Earth, more than lived up to their good name, and boasts some of Al’s heaviest riffs. If you haven’t heard Iron Man, you should. Phil Anselmo and Dave Grohl will agree. Just listen to those riffs and solos, be blown away, and salute one of the coolest guitarists doom has ever seen.