Review Summary: A defiant mix of robust post-punk and hypnotic psychedelia.
When making music, spontaneity often outweighs the larger amount of time required for a meticulous creative process. Joe Cardamone came to this conclusion while producing more and more records of young acts. His post-punk outfit The Icarus Line have been an integral part of LA's underground scene for nearly 15 years putting out four notable albums in the process, yet they've only just decided to venture into a rapid way of doing things on their new release. Slave Vows
has been conceived at breakneck speed, being recorded live in Cardamone's studio with hardly any overdubs. Needless to say, the effect is reinvigorating.
Cardamone couldn't pick out a better time to revive the energy of his band than after 2011's Wildlife
which, contrary to its title, was a rather restrained and timid affair. Slave Vows
happens to be a polar opposite: structured songs have been replaced by much noisier and more experimental jams that let the quartet delve into full-fledged psychedelia on many occasions. The hypnotic aggression that's in full swing here sits remarkably well with The Icarus Line’s usually frenetic standards. Full of unhinged guitar leads, pulsating bass lines, taut drumming and hazy keys, the record sounds both traditional and refreshing. It treads a fine line between 1970s rock aesthetics and adventurous dynamics, proving highly effective at carrying out a plethora of vicious sonic attacks.
In fact, the majority of eight songs on Slave Vows
works as a textbook definition of how to build and release tension. Opener “Dark Circles” is an 11-minute psych-drone epic that kicks off with a menacing trail of feedback, then gradually evolves into a narcotic beat, only to settle in the decadent blues in the latter half. On the other hand, “Dead Body” explodes halfway through with mercilessly hissing keys, providing a backdrop for a bombarding lead riff that later on devolves into a shrieking wall of noise. As the album progresses, it becomes evident that, by exposing themselves to the intense recording practice, The Icarus Line have come out with a highly dynamic endeavor, complete with Cardamone's passionate yells and lyrics that defiantly tackle the ceaseless frustrations of modern life in the face of financial crisis.
It's no accident that one of the record's most piercing moments is called “No Money Music.” The walls of distortion and buzz-saw riffs should firmly discourage radio stations from playing any of these songs, but making money is not the point. As Cardamone stated, he feels disillusioned about music industry as much now as he did when he formed the band. That definitely lends Slave Vows
its share of vitriol and ferocity. Whatever the album lacks in refinement and songwriting polish, it gains in the unflagging energy these tunes emanate.