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Early Man 

With Priestess and Donner Party Leftovers. Thursday, December 1, at the Beachland Tavern.

How did this band wind up on Matador Records? Perhaps the label heads thought Early Man's thundering drums and screaming guitar riffs were an ironic joke. Lucky for metalheads, they were dead wrong. The band's full-length debut, Closing In, is a 42-minute blast of primitive thrash that's metal to the marrow and utterly devoid of campy smirking.

Most of the songs here hew extremely close to early '80s templates, emulating the work of Paul DiAnno-era Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, and the first wave of speed metal (Anthrax, Metallica, Exodus), with the Sabbath-style "Death Is the Answer" being the only exception. Early Man don't fetishize their makeup as a duo; guitars and bass are overdubbed for a full-band sound. Adam Bennati's drumming is heavy and precise, bolstering Mike Conte's galloping retro riffs. More important, Bennati doesn't go for excessively complex double-bass work, preferring to thump out a groove like AC/DC's Phil Rudd. Conte's vocals are the only misstep -- occasionally he goes for a high-pitched Ozzy-like wail when a James Hetfield bark would better serve the song. But on an album this strong, that's forgivable. The band's name is well chosen; Closing In sounds like a lost tape from 1983, the metal equivalent of a newly discovered cave painting.

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