Icarus The Owl

Love Always, Leviathan

Written by: TL on 23/08/2012 16:28:01

It's been around two years since I first heard Icarus The Owl on their debut album "The Spotless Mind" and while the reservations I had about that album still stick with me, I am compelled to surrender the title of "best signature riff I've heard in recent years" to that album's standout track "Running From Lacuna". For this simple reason I have of course harboured a growing interest in seeing if the band could step up their game, and hence I've been looking forward to their second full length "Love Always, Leviathan" for quite some time, just as I have taken quite some time after its arrival to make up my mind about it.

In case you're new to the band, they're a quartet out of Oregon who deal in a bright, experimental math rock with persistant ambitions to blow minds. On their past two releases ("The Spotless Mind" and "Qualia EP") they established a highly recognisable, bubbly guitar sound which they wield in mind boggling melodic leads on top of frequently morphing time signatures and drum patterns. Imagine the likes of Damiera, Dance Gavin Dance and The Fall Of Troy bouncing ideas off each other and you should start to get an idea bout what this sounds like.

At the centre of the soundscape stands frontman Joey Rubenstein who wields a soft yet powerful voice with an ambition only barely behind that of the band's guitar playing, often pushing up into whiny highs or falsetto flourishes. Between his voice and the light, fleet-footed feel to the sound, Icarus The Owl have always managed to sound deceptively poppy and exhilarated, despite the actual weight and complexity of their arrangements. And this is one of the band's main strengths, especially here on "Love Always, Leviathan" - which is more of a refinement of the band's sound than an actual development, yet it sees the band get past the main drawbacks of their earlier releases by being a lot more focused and as an effect: catchy.

Sacrificing little to none of their fascinating technicality then, ICO have only added extra allure to their sound by peppering "Love Always.." with plentiful memorable moments. Among them the shouts of "tiny souls walk among us!" in "Nuclear Towns" and the refrains of 'move on from a girl' track "What We Had Was Never Love" are but examples of hooks that sparkle early on the album, and eventually the record will yield up songs like "Rinse And Start Over" and "Chemicals And Flesh" which slay with paradoxical delicacy in the chorus of the former and the falsetto highlight in the "disregard Galileooo!" of the latter's prechorus.

Highlight moments such as those are important keys to gaining a foothold in the breathtakingly intricate world of Icarus The Owl, and their multiplicity on "Love Always, Leviathan" hence manifest a fine tuning of the band's potential. Listening to it, I admit I still have moments thinking that ICO have crafted a sound that is so specific that it may become too much of a limitation down the stretch of their career, yet the prominence of piano melodies and female guest vocals on occasions here, seems to hint that the guys are not entirely opposed to opening up to new ideas. And that bodes well for a band with a highly unique blend of lightness and complexity, which will dazzle you fast and yet continue to reward you over time - a band that has reached an early peak here with "Love Always, Leviathan" but still might have potential for even bigger accomplishments.

8

Download: Chemicals And Flesh, Rinse And Start Over, What We Had Was Never Love, Nuclear Towns
For The Fans Of: Damiera, Tides Of Man, Dance Gavin Dance, Closure In Moscow, The Fall Of Troy, Children Of Nova
Listen: facebook.com/Icarustheowl

Release Date 21.06.2012
Self-released

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