Review: Icos “Walk With Me” CD

This Swedish act plays a fairly crushing form of dark, metallic hardcore/punk that blends the common His Hero is Gone style of approach with more of an open sort of Neurosis-esque slant. For example, "Dead End" sways from a thundering percussive rumble with faintly lulled singing and sparse guitar work to a chilling blend of harsh screaming and dissonant power chords with thick, gritty distortion and some melodic textures underneath; and the six-minute "Each Day" opens with dry acoustic guitars and added strings for a truly somber two-minute intro that once more explodes into a midpaced dirge of distorted power chords before sinking back down for an excellently placed sample and returning to continue the back and forth contrast between calmer areas and oppressively bleak distorted runs. Tracks like "A New Morning" are in large part basically slightly more frantic and dissonant takes on a rather straight up attack of modern Swedish D-beat crust, but the band always tends to shift gears at least once per song, and this time it's another softer break of sustained power chords that takes over with backing drones that lead into the initial ambient throb of "Fly Away" - which fucks with some odd time signatures and added discordance for a rather different sounding track that still fits in with the overall aesthetic. From a sheer quality of songwriting standpoint, however, it's the title track that really hits the hardest with its melodic sensibilities and gutwrenching vocal performance during the chorus - standing as a true beacon of what Icos is capable of. The recording is really nice for this style in terms of blending massive density with a good grasp of clarity that creates a powerful sense of force without going too far or becoming muddy. It's a pretty crisp approach that sounds a little more polished than a lot of this kind of stuff, and that certainly pays off in the way that the guitars and vocals interact with the rhythm section. Good stuff. The disc is housed in a nice looking glossy digipack with a consistent appearance that's pretty misleading in terms of how menacing the music is (It actually looks like an emo record or something!). They forgot to list one song title on the back cover, but what can you do? The lyrics are a blend of personal turmoil and light socio-political commentary, but while I can appreciate the general tone and emotion of the content, I'm really not very moved by the literal lyrics in terms of overly stripped down lines such as, "Give me your wings, teach me to fly, take me away, I don't belong, I don't fit in this world..." simply because such phrases simply seem to lack creativity, you know? Considering the immense force of the music I'd just like to see the lyrics get a little more involved to match that same level of intensity. But for the most part this is really good stuff, and it's interesting that they have as much in common with their country- and labelmates in Ambulance as they do with other fellow Swedes like Cult of Luna, but they manage to come across without sounding too much like either one of those tried and true styles in the process. So the balance is in place, and this record should of course appeal to fans of both styles in its attempts to push for something a little different in between. Well done.

[Cage Match Federation]
Running time - 31:48, Tracks: 9
[Notable tracks: Dead End, Each Day, Walk With Me]
Cage Match Federation -