Review Summary: The UK's equivalent of Vein.
Let’s talk about what happens when genres become overpopulated for a second. After the originators lay the foundations of what resembles this fresh sect of music, a few bands capitalise on this opportunity and start incorporating this sound into their own music. Consequently, this becomes a ‘movement’ and soon enough, everyone is doing it to the point where what was once considered creative is now looked at as uninspired. It happened to metalcore, it happened to djent, it briefly happened to post-black metal and since Code Orange erupted, it appears like it’s starting to happen to hardcore. Fortunately, there is always some gold hidden amongst the gravel and the prospectors at the reliably brilliant Holy Roar Records have dug up yet another valuable nugget.
Ithaca swerves clear of the vortex that copycat bands waltz into because of the sheer number of influences that are presented on their debut album, “The Language of Injury”
. In a smidgen over 31 minutes, Ithaca weaves a barbed a web of math rock, punk, doom and post something-or-other spun skilfully together by a conventionally hardcore attitude. Somehow, similar to Vein’s recent debut release, “Errorzone”
, Ithaca also doesn’t sound like a glitchy jumbled mess and does sound like a coherent clamorous clash of rabid riffs and soothing surrender.
However, with such a polarising array of sounds contorted around each other, “The Language of Injury”
, might take some time to translate to some due to its pure barefacedness. Punishing riffs twist and snap spasmodically to create a frenzied sound. Violent assaults of unexpected breakdowns march forward in “New Covenant” and “Youth vs. Wisdom” after brief moments of calm. The harsh vocal interplay between Djamila Azzouz and Sam Chetal-Walsh in “Impulse Crush” and “Slow Negative Order” creates a disorientating feel, almost like an inner mental argument. Needless to say, Ithaca’s sound is turbulent. Their reliance towards the vicious stabbing effect with the guitars to create the brutalising aspect of their sound occasionally sounds one dimensional, whereas if they allowed the riffs to stretch a little further instead of jumping from one place to another in quick succession, they’d be able to extract a higher level of emotive power in their heavier moments akin to what they do in the tender parts of this album. Sometimes it’s nicer to watch a bonfire instead of a firework display.
Beneath this brutality is a sense recluse melancholy. At first, Azzouz’s clean vocals during the title track are anxiously placed deep in the back of the mix but they emerge gently as the song swells in size. They also materialise in the next song, “CLSR”, casting a lonesome appearance against a wash of seething melodies. It’s welcome to hear some light guitar melodies in hardcore that are not particularly uplifting but still give off a comforting presence. In songs such as “Gilt” and the fantastic closing track “Better Abuse” demonstrate this perfectly; the lighter moments don’t eradicate the domineering darkness, but they act as a reminder that although you can’t see, you’re not alone in the dark.
“The Language of Injury”
is a devastating statement of intent. Binding the furious attitude of Svalbard with the exhaustive emotionality of Oathbreaker and the fluctuating dynamics of Code Orange is no easy task. Ithaca has not only succeeded in creating that sound, but they’ve also presented hardcore with another sparsely populated niche to branch off into.