Dead Icons - Condemned
Record Label - Bullet Tooth Records
Release Date - January 24, 2012
Condemned is the debut full length from Dead Icons, a band originating in the hardcore hotbed of... Lexington, Kentucky. Okay, so you don’t normally associate hardcore with that particular city like you would Boston, New York or Los Angeles. But nestled like a needle in a haystack, Condemned is a sharp-edged record of gritty hardcore sprinkled with breakdowns and adrenaline-fueled verses of genuine hardcore fare. It isn’t a re-invention of the genre by any means, but in the afterthoughts of listening to this album, Dead Icons seem more than capable of writing respectable hardcore with biting lyricism that picks up the trail of hardcore legends Terror more often than not.
Balancing energetic verses with enjoyable moments of head-bobbing breakdowns, that is if you don’t fall under the category of ‘mosh warrior’, Condemned is focused on a sound that varies very minimally from front to back. Ripe with buzzing guitars and quick kick-and-snare drum beats, the foundation of the album lies in a straight-forward, yet strong vein of sound. Opener “Folding Aces” is a perfect introduction in the idea that it represents most of Condemned perfectly. Uptempo verses, moments of brief fogginess in songwriting and a strong, well-placed breakdown sums up the sound of this song and record in a nearly sweeping three minutes. It really doesn’t matter what song you pick, this is what you’re going to hear – not that isn’t expected for a record of this nature. Flashes of guitar melody help break up the procession of unending grit though, as “Survival”, “Condemned” and “The Curse” all show moments of injected melodies and broken up guitar lines though, helping steer this record from being completely flat in the musicianship category. “Everything Has a Price” stands out in the mix as well, teasing with a muted intro before brandishing a flurry of triples through what could arguably be the most varied and strongest track of the bunch.
But the real fault of Condemned doesn’t lie in a lack of initiative for innovation. It really falls on the moments of misguided songwriting that falter due to poorly transitioned passages into breakdowns or bridges. “Folding Aces” falls prey to this nearly halfway through, ditching the quicker tempos for an entirely different feeling section that feels like an entirely different track. The two ideas on their own are solid, but butted together with almost no segue kills the buzz built up before the breakdown even hits. Another victim of this is “Life of Uncertainty”, a track that feels unguided with its drum-led slow-jam morph. “Vultures” shifting from fast to mid-tempo works a bit better though, as the down-played guitars in the middle of this track set the scene for a wall of sound to build tension that never quite disappears.
I don’t doubt that Dead Icons put everything they had into Condemned. While sometimes not on track, this band seems committed and full of passion for what they do. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always equate to the best record possible. Still, there are more than enough reasons to enjoy this record for just tapping into our need for pit-inducing breakdowns and angst-filled lyricism. Be on the lookout for these guys.