Review Summary: When Icarus Falls drop the heaviness for a decidedly more subtle and patient sound and craft their strongest record to date in the process.
For most listeners of post-metal, as you carve deeper into the genre, it really does get tiring listening to all of the Isis, Neurosis and Cult of Luna worship that goes on. Back in the earlier days of When Icarus Falls (not so long ago really), they presented themselves on the heavier side of the post-metal spectrum, channeling the sort of sound Cult of Luna had back when they released Salvation
. The music was good enough and quite powerful, but it was a struggle to really differentiate them from the pack. It was also questionable at some points whether Diego Mediano’s vocals were strong enough to hold songs together. This was largely kept under control on their first album Aegean
but was abundantly clear on tracks like “The Great North” or “Erechtheion” off their Circles
EP from 2014 where his vocals bordered on jarring and awkward.
Their newest album Resilience
fixes a whole host of these flaws and shows a band that is really trying to find their own sound. They have effectively re-positioned themselves on the spectrum, trying to focus more so than ever on the softer, progressive side of post-metal. The songs stretch on longer, and are structured more in the way Isis structured their “transitional” album In the Absence of Truth
, really taking you on a journey as it plays along. That is, instead of rushing out the gates, songs like “One Last Stand” or “A Blue Light” take a more patient approach, really building themselves up nicely with smoother baselines and lighter guitar licks filling the earlier stages of the song. The atmosphere is both mysterious and eerie as the music plays on with exotic (almost Middle Eastern) influences at work here. Both songs eventually do deliver heavy and punishing sections in parts, but because of this aforementioned patience, feel more rewarding than ever despite not reaching the same colossal heights of their earlier work. Even shorter tracks like “Into the Storm” veer more on the softer side. This latter track as well as “The Lighthouse” are also among the few times you’ll hear Diego’s vocals come into play and the smaller doses of harsh vocals towards the end of both tracks pay off immensely for the same reason as before; they feel earned
and not overdone, striking the kind of balance between instrumentation and vocals that Bossk has perfected. The addition of spoken word sections in songs also adds some fresh perspective on the sound and (if the listener doesn’t mind a thicker Swiss accent) add to the intensity.
There are some absolute gems along the way too. Perhaps the biggest treat of all is the purely instrumental title track. It picks up with an addictively smooth intro and eases into an emotional and beautiful middle passage with soft guitars and drums that fit the lighter and reflective mood perfectly. It all amounts to a spectacular finish that surprisingly opts away from their more trademark crushing sound and more on a spacier post-rock kind of style. This is the kind of song that five years ago you would’ve never expected When Icarus Falls to make, and yet now their discography would feel empty in its absence. In fact, both the final two tracks here encroach this lighter post-rock territory. The constant shifting of heavy-to-soft that closer “A Blue Light” manages resembles a modern Godspeed You! Black Emperor in ways and the result is nothing short of monumental.
It remains to be seen where the Swiss post-metal band goes after this, but Resilience
marks an incredible and exciting step forward for the band and one of the finest post-metal releases of the year so far.