Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ice Dragon - 'S/T'

No band working today has been able to quite capture the ethos of Black Sabbath without resorting to mere idol worship with the exception of Boston’s Ice Dragon. They play contemporary psyche-doom filtered through a lo-fi, do-it-yourself ethic. Sure, the band doesn’t boast the creative jazzy drumming of a Bill Ward or the anchoring mass of a Geezer Butler, but Ice Dragon does lay down experimental and atmospheric doom metal of catastrophic proportions. This three-piece has produced three quality albums in as many years, so this collection of songs released as their 2007 debut is approached with much anticipation.

Previously unreleased material of artists usually has been unreleased for a reason. This material is often unfinished rough cuts, inferior material, or songs that are a steep departure from a band’s established discography. Sometimes, though, this unreleased material serves to illuminate another dimension of a band by revealing a few hidden gems. For the most part, like many other bands, Ice Dragon’s “S/T” falls into the former category.

A distinctive characteristic of Ice Dragon’s discography is the lo-fi production of their albums. While the band could benefit from a thicker production, especially with a boost to the low-end, it is indisputable that they have found their own sound. “S/T” is even further mired with a thin production compared to their other releases. The end result is a lighter, much more psychedelic inflected album by a band that comes across as if they are still searching for their niche.

Album opener ‘Wasted Nights’ is probably the best intimation of greater things to come from the band on future releases. The main riff isn’t quite as foreboding as typical Ice Dragon fare, but it is a doom-tinged head nodder accompanied by psychedelic washes of ethereal distortion. Definitely an album highlight.

Ice Dragon’s ability to effectively maneuver between softer, acoustic tunes or cataclysmic, mind-expanding doom is one of the bands strong suits and another feature that channels the essence of Black Sabbath. “S/T’s” third track, ‘So Far Away it Has No End’ falls into the hidden gem spectrum of previously unreleased material. It’s a simple acoustic number with distant vocals that exemplify longing and the desire to know the unknowable. It is easily the softest and perhaps the most uncharacteristic tune penned by the band, but that only serves to isolate its beauty.

The bulk of the album is a bit uneven and self-indulgent, but it is a worthwhile excursion for fans of the band’s later work, those interested in lo-fi, psychedelic tunes, or completists who need to own everything by a particular band. It certainly is a grower and listeners will be rewarded with multiple spins as any obstacles posed by the lo-fi production will begin to melt away. 

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

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