For Fans Of
There’s a moment on ‘Impulse Crush’ – the most recent single from UK metalcore act Ithaca’s debut album, ‘The Language Of Injury’ – where frontwoman Djamila Azzouz parses cryptic lyricism through a coarse roar: “A gift from the past is presentation/Affection is an affectation.” What then follows is best described as a ‘stupidly heavy’ breakdown: mental staccato riffage, thundering drums and frenzied panic chords, jammed together so tightly that they pierce through your skull like an ice-pick.
On the video for the very same track’s film clip, YouTube user ‘mike alexander’ was apparently so moved by this song, that he needed to acknowledge the band for their efforts: “Thank you for playing chugga chugga wee nee nees again. Nobody does that anymore,” they wrote. Well ‘mike’ – if that is even your real name – I think you’ll be pleased to know that ‘The Language Of Injury’ is absolutely chock full of “chugga chugga” moments and, of course, those precious “wee nee nees”. However, your timeline of events is slightly off there, champ. As it turns out, Ithaca have been wheelin’ and dealin’ in the heavy music business for a long time now, dropping slabs of chaotic and bludgeoning metalcore since 2014’s ‘Narrow The Way’, and its follow-up, 2015’s ‘Trespassers’ EP. So, after a near four-year waiting period, Ithaca have returned with their full-length debut and a reaffirmation of their sound and intent.
Most of ‘The Language Of Injury’s half-hour run time is spent dishing out a full-blown blitz of chaotic heaviness. Guitarists Sam Chetan-Welsh and Will Sweet keep things razor-sharp and angular, whether it be the screeching wall of feedback in opener ‘New Covenant’ or the furious tremolo picking during ‘Secretspace’. Former bassist Drew Haycock (replaced after the album’s recording sessions with current four-stringer, Red Simsey) punctuates each chug and beatdown passage with handfuls of murky slaps, adding thickness and depth to every sledgehammer-esque musical drop. Meanwhile, drummer James Lewis uses tracks like the pummelling ‘Slow Negative Disorder’ to hit the percussive tubs like a man possessed with bouncy snare hits and cascading double-kick bursts.
Now, that isn’t to say that all of ‘The Language Of Injury’ is primarily concerned with heaviness for the sheer sake of being heavy. Chetan-Welsh and Sweet imbue some of the tracks with brief moments of light and melody, adding in a real sense of brevity and atmosphere. Such is the case on the sorrowful mid-section of ‘Secretspace’ or the title track’s forlorn crescendo and outro. In these instances, Azzouz switches out her hardcore bark for drifting, ethereal singing which heighten the feelings of melancholy, pain and frustration garnered from the album’s lyrical content.
Yet, despite this mix of light and dark, ‘The Language Of Injury’ ends up coming off as slightly forgettable as a cohesive whole. The instrumental ‘(No Translation)’ doesn’t offer up anything substantial except for a chance to chew up the run time a little more. Also. Azzouz’s vocals suffer somewhat from sticking firmly in those two gears throughout the entire record. And this lack of dynamics results in some of the latter tracks blending together and becoming largely indistinguishable.
However, that being said, Ithaca do save the very best for last, as the album’s closing two tracks represent the band’s performance peak. The penultimate ‘Gilt’ offers up an arresting take on personal responsibility and loneliness, with Azzouz’s cleans nestled up softly against spiralling riff passages and a sturdy melodic hardcore backbone. And by the time the haunting notes of ‘Better Abuse’ arrive, that sense of dread slides quickly into burning anger and real rage with Chetan-Welsh and Sweet’s jackhammer riffs and Lewis’ machine-gun drum fills.
Overall, ‘The Language Of Injury’ is a solid statement for Ithaca’s musical project. The band play right to their strengths, for the most part, keeping the heavy parts chaotic and aggressive, whilst also tempering the record with nice hints of melody and brightness. If there’re any improvements to be made, though, more vocal variation and experimentation in the group’s songwriting would definitely help to embolden not just the strength of their musical output, but also their appeal to a wider audience of metal and hardcore fans alike. Well, beyond those singularly focused on the “chugga chugga wee nee nees”, at least.
- New Covenant
- Impulse Crush
- Slow Negative Order
- (No Translation)
- The Language Of Injury
- Youth Vs Wisdom
- Better Abuse
‘The Language Of Injury’ is out now via Holy Roar Records – find physical & digital copies here.