03 Jul 2021 - Thorsten
Southern Lord | Release date: 25 Jun 2021
Okay this could be a history lesson, because Iceburn are nothing less than one of the first bands to ever play something like Sludge or Post-Metal while at the same time being a Hardcore collective and incorporating completely different genres like Avantgarde into their music as well. But….
…that would not do justice to Asclepius, their new EP with a running time of more than 36 minutes (!!) spread across two tracks (!!!). And how shall one compare the new record to their discography which is diverse as hell, as the first paragraph tries to explain? The new record is not any of those genres, it is in parts all of them and takes you on a journey through sound. The band around Gentry Densley, whom some may also know from Eagle Twin his main project after the millennium, is able to gather all of these elements under the roof of his voice is as much Classic Rock as it is Sludge or Post-Metal. If Nick Cave ever made a real metal record – he should sound like Gentry, and he would also appreciate the title of the EP for when better than to call for the Greek god of medicine Asclepius than in the middle of a global pandemic. Asclepius is also a connection to one of the band’s earlier releases: Hephaestus named after the Greek god of blacksmiths, artists and craftsmen.
Musically, Iceburn’s music is still a thing as indescribable as before: The first track is ”Healing The Ourobouros” (Ourobouros being one of these typical myths appealing heavily to metal bands as it an ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail) and it’s sprawled across near-19 minutes. One of the key lines in the middle of the song is ”Fly like a snake / Crawl like a bird / back to the egg” - a paradox as neither of these animals can follow the imperative, both would remain immobile and yet the ”Back to the egg” part is a very nice idea as both animals hatch from eggs. Somehow a symbol for all of us as we all stem from the same biological root and should not try to eat ourselves. Maybe this is also a maniac version of a doctor giving this medical advice. When trying to describe the music of ”Healing The Ourobouros”, one easily sees the doomy beginning which is then pushed further by the Southern-Rock/Sludge guitars giving the whole track a near-classic Heavy Metal feeling. When the real riff sets in we are led into the realm of Post-Metal with a lot of grits and then the whole track becomes even more magical when the Southern Sludge elements come back and the track is able to go through so many metamorphoses it’s hard to describe. But one will find a lot of Noise and Blues elements bordering on jazzy avantgarde with a rhythm section tweaking what is possible or not. That the whole track takes a total break and re-structures itself after 15 minutes (!!!) without becoming any boring just speaks for how good these four guys have become as musicians over the last 3,5 decades.
The next track, ”Dahlia Rides The Firebird”, again based on Greek mythology, shows how well-educated the guys are – some of them majored in classics/philosophy, music/composition and ethno-musicology. This track is the “more Post-Metal” of the two and thus might seem a bit easier to grasp. But here the quality of one’s stereo set up is very important because if one doesn’t concentrate enough on the track, the highly nuanced small variations of the rhythm section go unnoticed, which would be a shame for all the work Chubba Smith (drums) and Cache Tolman (bass) have invested in it; they even have a few hardcore-moments on this track. Basically, it becomes clearer with every spin of the record just how good this is. The musicians are really first-class and the recording done by Andy Patterson (of SubRosa and Insect Ark) is doing justice to the tracks. Without him, this EP wouldn’t be as good as it is.
In short: Asclepius is the of the year!