Here's a review of the newest IKON album courtesy of the legendary Mick Mercer:
DESTROYING THE WORLD TO SAY IT
It is probably fair to say that one of the biggest themes in agitated lyrics found on Goth albums are those which rail against religion and its hypocrisies, its realities, although never its possibilities. (Unless you’re a Christian Goth band and then it tends to go all luvvy-duvvy.) I have never actually understood why Goth bands get in such a state about it all, because once they’ve said they are enraged, or done the Catholic guilt-reversal thing to blow off some angst endured during their adolescence what more is there to say? Why, for example, isn’t there as much anti-politics to be heard, when people trot out the old ‘so much killing in the name of religion!’ Well, yes, good point. And just as much in non-religious ways. Why, I never ask myself with any great intensity, does it matter so much to people? Let it go, take up gardening.
Ikon have some religious themes on this album and it’s been a long time coming and just like The Machine In The Garden, who didn’t get why slow release schedules can profit a band far more in terms of quality than regular activity, this has ladled gravitas over the whole project, because this has a massed focus that recent EPs haven’t called upon. Both ‘Psychic Vampire; and ‘I Never Wanted You’ are great records, but they were teasers and tasters for this.
They’re a Gothic rock band, not a Rock band with Gothic sensitivities. They’re lean, and the melodies hum among dust and grim determination. Like The Nephilim without play-acting and frills or throat problems, ‘Never Forget! Never Forget!’ forgets its table manners and goes straight for your throat and shakes. Stern, sturdy drums and subtle, bolstering bass give their songs weight. The vocals are clear, one step above dour, and out of the overall hefty sense of purpose with some gentle electronic swishes, the guitars flicker and fly out like vicious, colourful accusations, livid spasms inside the dark rock heart. If there are messages and themes for me to unravel as a listener I am not generally disposed to such things, so whatever is going on here I didn’t take too much notice of, and will just let seep into, and around, me over time. If I hear a loud, agile guitar voguing behind a scowling face I leap into metaphorical cab, shouting instructions of ‘follow that noise!’ ‘The Deep Crown’ thuds itself into the ground, stamping, as the serious guitar waves and grates in the twilight.
It’s often that high, tensile steel sound which the guitar is choking out, a classic Goth sound, and it repeats and is layered as the voice lands like a professorial parliament of rooks, walking the length of the melody. ‘Without Shadows’ pulsates with regret, and the song is actually over-agitated, with the guitar constantly busy and provocative, the song one long, addictive corridor. ‘God Has Fallen From The Sky’ is a husk. Lambent acoustic, sympathetic bass, whispery vocal offshoots. I’m hearing nothing new musically, but I’m puzzling over words, and assuming that’s good. Fuzzy guitar disrupts the drowsiness, building behind synth sighs.
‘Psychic Vampire’ you probably know, as it disports itself disgracefully, and successfully, before the decorous and nimble ‘Father Of Lies’ unfolds as a grave delicacy suitable to the most traditional Goth palate, complete with a stretchy, wonderful chorus. It’s a musical itch followed by the cool ‘Ashes Of Blue’ with the ticklish, deceptively childlike vocals of Louisa John-Kroll that also takes them into left-field indie/’alt’ territories, because who could resist this?
‘Rome’ burns (ye Gods!) with a guitar which wants to take it out on somebody, something, as the rhythm flutters then marches. The vocals push it aside to take the lead, and off they all stomp, quite sensibly with a dignified pace and simultaneous decorative interplay which only comes with experience. This is mature rock with a tough exterior that manages to be attractively pock-marked, like a perfumed Artica.
‘My Crucible’ is more standard Goth, with its chirpy guitar and solid bass sound uniting behind simple phrases, but it works and expands, and excites. I don’t know why he sings ‘Crew Sea Bill’, when it’s ‘crews-cybil, isn’t it? (Isn’t it?!!) But that’s personal styles for you, and it’s another annoyingly addictive song. A peppery ‘Heresy’ is far simpler, with bright guitar.
‘Slaughter’ steps away into ululation and atmospherics, where a synth curiously vibrates with a Mediterranean feel, the drums click like stout heels, strings are sweet and even the bass doffs its hat. Ravishing, certainly, but I’m not sure why this track is here, because it’s thrown the mood and lightened it. That said, ‘Path Of The Unknown’ is a very spry take on earlier tracks, and gets you bouncy, while still being dark and somehow gripping with its tangle of sounds and defiant lyrics. ‘The Black Goat Of Judas’ which is engaging fury and ends with sirens and Italian and you’re done.
This is a formidable collection of magnificent music which makes Goth accessible to those might normally shy or turn away, while appealing to Goths right across the board with its inflamed misery and hard-hitting songs. It’s an album you will return to regularly until it becomes a staple part of your collection and you will rely upon, but the surprising thing is that despite its obvious excellence there’s a fundamental sense of modesty about Ikon.
I simply can’t recommend it highly enough, but I’ll get a ladder anyway.