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Vulgar, Atrocious - 88%

Larry6990, March 25th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Klabautermann records

Misery is a strange concept. We spend our lives trying to avoid misery or things that make us miserable, yet the right amount of misery - presented in an artistic way - is good for us in a cathartic sense. In fact, we actively seek it out. It's this wonderfully cathartic sense of misery I experienced when listening to Rancid Harmony, the new album by Finnish death/sludge metallers Concrete Icon. When I say 'listening', I mean lying down and letting swathes of glorious melancholy envelope me. I guess what makes C.I.'s form of sorrowful sludge so appealing and addictive, is that the depressive lyrics are walled in by bricks of heavy riffage and a non-stop momentum & drive which almost forces you to enjoy your catharsis. This is heavy shit, and it does not relent. Being unfamiliar with the Finns' debut, this was a splendid way to introduce me to the band.

The opening title-track does a fabulous job at summing up what this band, and album, is all about. The haunting clean guitar opening sets the mood perfectly until some crashing chords appear and grandify the sound. Then, once the grinding chug at the 1:24 mark pummels your face with its gritty guitar tone and relentless double-kick, you're fully immersed in the grimy world of Rancid Harmony. Boy, what an appropriate album title! The title-track, in general, is one of the surefire highlights of the disc. The chorus has an infectious vocal pattern (a rare treat in this sub-genre) and the riff count is off the charts. In fact, that's praise that can be applied to the whole album. There are so many riffs on this LP that I'm a little blindsided. From the death-based rattles of "Thoughts That Condemn", to the massive, one-note hulking breakdowns of "Meaningless I Am" - it covers the whole range.

If we're still talking riffs (and this is my review, I'll talk about what I want...which is riffs), no song on this album quite reaches the heights of track 6: "Stain Of Imperfection". It constantly switches from melodeath-style harmonics to despairing leads to crushing riff-hammers. Think of a cross between Candlemass and Jugulator-era Judas Priest (that album rules, fight me), and you'll have something akin to the pounding groove at 0:26. Gee, I find myself getting so excited about all the deliciously heavy content on this record, I forget that it's supposed to invoke feelings of suffering and sadness. The keyword here is 'consistency'. Sometimes I find my attention drifting because none of these songs differ in style from each other hardly at all. But once I man up and stop fucking whining, I realize that this is that old chestnut that bands used to call 'consistency'. Concrete Icon know their own sound, and the wonderfully nasty timbre is upheld for the entire 41 minutes. All it requires is some patient attention.

That said, there are one or two little points of intrigue dotted throughout Rancid Harmony. The clean vocal section in "To Kill A Swan", in particular, is most welcome and resembles a Lovecraftian cultist's chant. Vocalist/guitarist extraordinaire Jake deserves much praise for maintaining his wholesome vocal tone whilst churning out those filthy riffs. His grasp of the English language, and subsequent ability to growl completely intelligibly, is a wonder to behold. Overall, Concrete Icon's sophomore effort might turn away or bore the less attentive metalhead due to its solidly consistent dynamic. But those with an attention span higher than a grape will appreciate the engulfing sorrow, the dirge-like atmosphere, the vicious vocal delivery and, most importantly, those fucking riffs.