Six years on from their well-received and acclaimed debut album, UK’s I.C.O.N make another noticeable and even more potent imprint on the British metal scene with its successor The Blacklist. It is a brute of an encounter yet jammed with stirring melodies and sonic enterprise to temper and complement its muscular aggression. The album is not one to seriously tear up the metal/heavy rock landscape but in giving it an invigorating stirring, The Blacklist does a massive job.
From the release of their first album New Born Lie in 2009, I.C.O.N has continued to reinforce their potent reputation and increase a loyal fan base through a live presence taking in stage sharing with the likes of Breed 77, Blaze Bayley, Warrior Soul, Diamond Head, Furyon, Zico Chain, Witchfynde, and Voodoo Six amongst many others. Numerous festival appearances have only enhanced their growing stature too, with the release of The Blacklist now carrying the broadest potential to awaken major spotlights. Produced by Pete Troughton, the album is a tapestry of hostile exploits and melodic temptation cast in an array of individual proposals. Some tracks outshine others but from its first atmospheric breath to its final roar, the release provides one rugged, raw, and rousing enjoyment.
The album opens with A Room In Hell, a short instrumental gently and evocatively luring the listener into the heart and turbulence of The Blacklist. Guitars cast an enticing web of expression and craft whilst rhythms rumble like an encroaching storm, their shadows colluding with sonic persuasion in a potent intro to the release and the sinew stretched swagger of Feeding The Negative. Instantly riffs from guitar and bass are a gripping coaxing matched by the increasingly aggressive and agitated assault of beats. The growling tone of Reece Bevan’s bass additionally provides a great accompaniment to the equally gravelly vocals of Mark Sagar and a predatory contrast to the acidic and scorching endeavour of Scott Knowles’s guitar. In full stride and attitude, ground-breaking the song is not but like the album, in prime and inventive metal spawned rock ‘n’ roll, the track is a storming incitement and pleasure.
The following Grindin’ Wheel, though appearing less confrontational, is a matching beast of provocation. As the keen swipes of Larry Paterson’s drum sticks hit skin and senses, a spicy groove is cast by Knowles, its revelry sparking a similar swing to riffs and subsequent rhythms whilst band vocal calls add an anthemic tempting to around increasingly imposing and impressing tones of Sagar. The song does its big part in the continuing strong and gripping start to The Blacklist and is instantly backed by the thrash seeded I’m The Venom, a song with a hint of bands like Metallica and Testament but flinging those flavours around like a baker with dough to create its own recipe of melodic/heavy rock infused antagonism. There is that familiarity though but it only makes things spicier around the uniqueness fuelling the incendiary solo which breaks free and the bracing vocal/rhythm collusion shaping all tracks.
Both Welcome To My War, with its deliciously barbarous bass insurgence and uncompromising drums swings, and Speak To Your God keep ears and appetite fully fed. The first of the two is just breath-taking at its start, an inescapable consuming of the senses and imagination which then loses its fullest potency once it settles into a more reserved and restrained prowl. The song still impresses and ignites full satisfaction to be fair but such its glorious opening, it feels a little like a missed opportunity unlike its successor which brawls and rages from its first breath. With a hint of a southern twang to its air, the track reveals its whole weight and weaponry straight away, simply increasing its richness with nagging riffs, riveting grooves, and a fiery solo, not forgetting virulent rhythms.
The slower, more controlled Devil’s Blacklist walks through ears with emotional expression and descriptive sonic hues, and though it maybe lacks the spark of its predecessors, it hangs a creative arm around attention to keep it fully involved before Wrong Way Back turns in a heavy and forceful stomp equipped with raw contagion spun by the skilled exploits of each member of the band. There is no avoiding the technical and accomplished craft from I.C.O.N, and how individually and united its members know how to write and deliver a fully rounded and attention grabbing storm of an encounter, no better proof coming than with Man of the North. From a cold and lonely canvas the instrumental builds an evocative landscape of solitude and beauty, its range of minimalistic textures to full blown tempestuous endeavour and ideation a relentless suggestiveness for the imagination.
The outstanding rampage of Deconverted descends on ears and air next, another thickly persuasive bass lead stirring up body and emotions for the song to bruise and ignite further, though it is another which maybe does not realise the potential hinted at throughout. It is still an excellent encounter though leaving the closing and tenacious sonic might of Drowning In Their Screams to bring this thoroughly enjoyable and invigorating album to a close.
For honest and uncluttered, as well as seriously accomplished heavy metal, it will be hard to find anything much better than The Blacklist this year we suggest. It is not flawless and as mentioned it does not fulfil all the promise hinted at, but you can only feel that there is a major classic lurking inside I.C.O.N as they evolve and grown further whilst this release persistently shows itself to be one powerful and seriously tasty encounter all metallers should take time to devour.
The Blacklist is available now via Metalbox Recordings digitally and on CD @ http://www.iconukonline.com/webshop