After returning to Los Angeles after a lengthy period on the road in 2012, supporting last year’s album release including a European support tour with Killing Joke, The Icarus Line quickly re-grouped to write and record ‘Slave Vows’ within a two month period. You could be excused for expecting their latest opus to continue along the acclaimed rock ‘n’ roll stomp lies of ‘Wildlife, in true Icarus Line style however, playing safe just not an option. A simple decision made, back to basics, recording the vast majority of “Slave Vows” live, inspirational choice, the sheer raw energy of the band projected ingloriously throughout.
The opening two minutes of drone manifesting from within “Dark Circles” immediately initiate a far darker, more perverse musical experience on offer, the ten minute plus track building around hypnotic bass line prior vocals, or rather subliminal incantations heard manifesting deep in the mix, driving towards an assumed crescendo before breaking down to a more understated closure. A specific aspect which arises within “”Don’t Let Me Save Your Soul” the guitar work of band mainstay and vocalist Joe Cardamone, always ever present in the background on earlier recordings, although in this instance, given full vent and main billing and what work it is. Cardamone, less plays, rather attacks in a compelling unadulterated visceral assault, creating sonic maelstroms of sound, which propel “Slave Vows” spiralling through another dimension. Take the more abstract moments from the undoubted masterpiece which is ‘Penance Soiree,’ multiply by ten, you’re somewhere near the aural vortex of what may become The Icarus Line’s finest moment. Witness the slow burning intro of “Marathon Man” before the filthiest of string bending dominates, the frenetic six stringed false ending, another monumentally psychedelic blitzkrieg on the ear drums. While some comparisons can still be made with The Stooges and The Rolling Stones, less the arrogant strut of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” or “Brown Sugar” this time round, rather the more diabolical, undeniably sinister aspects of “Who Will Fall” or “Sympathy for the Devil” permeate the Californian ether.
A continuation from “Wildlife,” Cardamone railing against authority and a music industry openly regarded as an enemy to creativity. In many ways, there’s a temptation to suggest, come on Joe, that’s just the way life is, like it or not, but without that anger, without that resentment coercing a desire to rip open wounds and rub salt, deep as humanly possible, an album this unruly, this incensed just wouldn’t exist. Does anyone give a “Rats Ass,” I certainly do, and one thought I can’t remove from my mind on every occasion I play ‘Slave Vows,’ the spectre of founder member and original lead guitarist Aaron North has most definitely now left the building.
I missed The Icarus Line live last year, if a return announcement to the U.K imminent, there can be no excuses this time round.
Slave Vows released July1st
Review by Andy Barnes - photo by Melanie Smith (2012)