Nowadays it’s hard to have any national pride. With the rise of populism and the far right leading to such wondrous results as the incumbent United States President and Brexit, taking gratification in one’s birth country is nigh on impossible. How refreshing then that, certainly for British readers, we can take solace and delight in the fact that we have the greatest record label (objective fact, that), Holy Roar. As an exponent it is the antidote to the crumbling civilisation that surrounds us. A comfort in a world gone mad. With a slew of stellar releases over the past few years any band under their banner must be given undivided attention. The label are showing no signs of slowing down with the year’s first major release, Ithaca’s new album The Language of Injury.
Squealing squalls of discordant feedback first greet the listener and set the stage for what is a challenging and painful listen. Ithaca are a metallic hardcore band in the vein of Poison the Well, with the grandiose expansiveness of Oathbreaker, all wrapped up in a concise and unsightly package. New Covenant is built on a hulking stomp that bursts into a twisting, apocalyptic groove with very little breathing space. It’s a constrictive number that batters you with its understated genius and imposing presence.
The glitching wails of guitar cut through the sonic devastation and leave your teeth on edge just waiting for it to stop. It is a technique employed by many bands, but few are able to utilise it to such unsettling effect. There’s a masochistic pleasure about enjoying songs like Impulse Crush and the title track; they are far from pleasant, but you’ll be damned if they aren’t iron clad ragers. It’s not all aural brutality, however. The vast space created by the delicately open picked sections of Secretspace and album highlight, Clsr., create an emotional grandeur, cresting the scorched earth the band lay in their wake. The juxtaposing clean vocals that arrive in penultimate track, Gilt, are a oasis in the hellscape of this album, allowing just a moment of reprieve from the auditory brutality.
Things come to a head in bombastic fashion with finale, Better Abuse. A bleak behemoth that ebbs and flows with stunning dynamism between skull crushing and emotionally resonant, it serves as the relative epic of the album. Few bands in Ithaca’s sub genre would have the gumption to introduce a brass lead orchestral segue before you are swallowed whole by a torturous breakdown, but they pull it off with incredible nous. If 2018 was the year of the sax, Ithaca throw down the gauntlet that ’19 will be the year of the trumpet.
A debut of genuine brilliance is something incredibly difficult to craft. Ithaca have clearly spent a lot of time and effort honing their craft to bring the world an oxymoronic delight. Take time with this album as its delights are not surface level. There is such substance to the music the quintet create, that time must be taken, and respect must be afforded. The band’s statement of intent is never more perfectly expressed than in the all too brief kick to the throat of Youth Vs. Wisdom. They’re ‘not here to make friends’ and they’re not taking any prisoners.
Ithaca’sThe Language of Injury is released on February 1st 2019 through Holy Roar Records.