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Good concept, good musicians, not good album - 55%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, January 7th, 2008

At the very least with their white masks and cloaks and the blue and white colours on the album sleeve, I.C.E. stand apart from the rest of the black metal crowd visually but musically it's another story: the band's aggressive blackened death metal charge can only go so far in ferocity and proficiency, and proves to be not at all original where it really counts. You hope that when a band boasting musicians already known to be good at what they do and who can play well together, and presenting a concept that's obviously BM yet cartoony and not taking itself seriously, comes along that its music will be good and maybe even great. But what we get here is an album that's big on speed, attack, technical proficiency, a big production and ... not much else.

There are eleven songs with a running time of over 38 minutes: that in itself says most tracks are short with not much development of riffs, melodies or rhythms or they're all crammed together in a package so tight they're easy to miss in the resulting blur. A lot of songs are brief hot blasts of machine-gun drumming and bass-heavy guitars and don't have a very distinct identity, they almost bleed into one another. Each song also features a lot of singing for such short pieces so there's not much space for instrumental guitar riffs to stand out. As soon as you hear something that threatens to be mid-paced and melodic and actually quite interesting, as in "Onward Banshee Legions", it gets swept out of the way by more hammering percussion and seesawing mathy death metal-style guitar work.

The lyrics to the songs are not bad, they're not too much like the frightful purply prose often seen within and without the Metal genre and they're surprisingly evocative and visual even though they trade in familiar demonic fantasy / Viking mythology / end-of-world apocalypse subject matter and the inevitable victory of the ice gods over errant humanity in claiming dominion of the planet Earth. Nearly every song refers to whiteness in some way - snow, ice, the Arctic regions, winter - so everything is linked to the eventual Whitewash of civilisation and humans. It's a shame therefore that nothing in the music or its production indicates the encroachment of eternal winter, not even a few breaths of cold air or discreet sprinkles of ice-crystal atmosphere or snowflakes between tracks, cliched though these little details are.

The production is clean which it needs to be for the band's technical style but it adds little to the concept behind the album. I.C.E. could have gone for something much more icy and glacial that could have made the guitars steely and the drums sharper if perhaps less solid. The atmosphere can still remain clear even with this kind of production.

Some of the more interesting tracks include "Onward Banshee Legions" for being slightly slower and melodic; "Cascade Cavern Catharsis" for an insane guitar intro; "Convulsing Frigid Death" (bass guitar droning groove early on); and "Behold thy Frozen Arctic Kingdom" which in parts is more melodic BM than the rest of the album. The outro "Ravaskeith's Revenge" should be a really important track as it deals with a soul's transformation but it's not different from the other tracks and misses out on being climactic and exultant. Now that something approaching emotion has been mentioned, it strikes me how there really is very little emotion on this album; the band's all-out assault on the senses and constant death metal twisting and turning don't allow for emotion or dynamic structure in the music.

Considering the raw materials involved in this recording, I found it very disappointing: the musicians bring a lot of potential, the concept though hackneyed is still strong and there can always be a new angle in there somewhere, and the lyrics are batty enough but the music turns out to be one-dimensional. Too much emphasis is laid on attack-attack all the time and split-second careening all over the record: this might be all right for death metal up to a point but black metal needs something different and more varied. It's very easy also to get the impression the guys were showing off what they can do.