Release Date: 1st Feb 2019
Record Label: Holy Roar Records
For Fans Of: Oathbreaker, Birds In Row
Is it too early to already have an album of the year? It often comes across as a hollow compliment when stated in the year’s first few months. At the very least, it would be shocking if Ithaca’s debut doesn’t find its way into this reviewer’s top ten of 2019.
The Language Of Injury sees Ithaca unleash a fearsome beast so full of fury, power and rage that it is hard to believe it is their first full length. Having previously released two EPs – with the second, Trespassers, running just over 12 minutes – audiences had an idea of the chaotic noise of which the band were capable, but Ithaca enter darker territory on their debut album. The blending of genres has been refined, with the ‘groove’ elements replaced with dissonant noise and the post-rock passages emerging more organically rather than as a method of displaying variety in songwriting.
Feedback screeches mark the start of the album with opener ‘New Covenant’, yet after a minute or so of frenetic riffing and Gojira-like rhythms, the track gives way to reverb soaked guitars over a sparse drum and bass pattern, before swiftly returning to slow, punishing stabs of distorted guitar. This pinballing of sounds continues throughout the album, jumping from low end riffing testing the limit of the listener’s speaker system to screeches of high, clashing chords in order to punctuate the contrast. Post-rock interludes are scattered throughout, providing a break from the noisy onslaught, but do not compromise the characterisation of this album; The Language Of Injury is an abrasive record.
While multiple comparisons have been made to Oathbreaker (which is just, considering the contrast both bands show between light and dark), many of the riffs bring Hollow Crown era Architects to mind. Technical without showing off virtuosity, Ithaca provide fiddly and intricate riffs that will most likely yield a bounty of YouTube cover videos; a welcome relief from the beatdown-heavy hardcore bands who live on the low open string. Of course there are still breakdowns aplenty throughout The Language Of Injury, but not only do the performed rhythms offer a challenge on the ears, they feel justified when contrasted with the complex riffs and more atmospheric segments.
Halfway through the album we find an interlude track, ‘(No Translation)’, which is where a criticism must be made. While it is understandable why interlude tracks are included (to accentuate the heavy stuff that occurs before/after said track), it should still require a strong level of musicianship. Converge provide interludes throughout their back catalogue, but craft actual songs out of these ‘calm before the storm’ moments, featuring full instrumentation and actual patterns and melodies, rather than a single guitar mucking around with a delay/reverb pedal. But hey, a lot of hardcore bands seem to be doing it recently, so maybe it’s just this particular reviewer who has an issue with interludes.
That said, while the use of a ‘calm before the storm’ track can be considered sneaky, the following track – title track and lead single ‘The Language Of Injury’ – is one of the heaviest found on the record, and an album highlight. Boasting a punishing rhythm that wouldn’t be out of place on a Meshuggah album and an expansive chorus (?) section featuring an impressive call and response vocal line between lead and backing vocals, this track alone would convert any non-believer into an Ithaca fan.
With a running time of just over 30 minutes, The Language Of Injury provides a quick, sharp attack of jarring hardcore, pummelling the listener’s ears with the choppy rhythms and the piercing shrieks of feedback. Considering the strength of this debut album, Ithaca may find themselves soon becoming UK hardcore heavyweights.
Recommended Tracks: The Language Of Injury, Better Abuse
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