Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Ichabod - Merrimack (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 31/10/2014
Label: Rootsucker Records

‘Merrimack’ DD track listing:

1). The Strong place (01:49)
2). Two Brothers Rock (08:14)
3). Squall (09:39)
4). Watershed (07:33)
5). Life at the Loom (07:29)
6). Child of the Bear (03:41)
7). The Ballad of Hannah Dustin (03:13)
8). The Return (06:32)

Ichabod is:

Dave Iverson | Guitars
Phil Mackay | Drums
Greg Dellaria | Bass
Jason Adam | Guitars
John Fadden | Vocals


It was with great interest that I pressed play to hear the new Ichabod album. Their last record, “Dreamscapes from Dead Space” was one of my albums of 2012- an eclectic mix of sludge, psych and good old rock sounds. ‘Merrimack’ is just as varied- if not more so- and also comes with a unifying theme taking in aspects of the rise and fall of the USA'S North Eastern region; well, part of it anyway. I am no expert on geography or the US (I've never even been there!) but this record sounds like an authentic hymn to industry and the working class that used to mean so much to the fabric of the country- before corporations and self serving politicians ruined everything.

Opener ‘The Strong Place’ is a barrelling two minutes of bluesy “moving on” themes. Nice bass work from Greg Dellaria and the gravel throat of John Fadden kicking things off with some style.
‘Two Brothers Rock’ follows with much harsher sounds. It's a long track and a devastating one. The album starts to take shape- it works as a continuous journey, flowing on like a river through your ears. That is not to say that there aren't hooks- there are, you just have to listen and they leap out.

‘Squall’ continues a watery theme of travel and turmoil. When Fadden snarls that he won't be defeated or denied, you believe him. No question. Again, the track is long (we are talking close to ten minutes!) so it takes in a lot of scope. Doors-esque psych? It's here. Raw aggression? Here too. This is expansive and unpredictable, perfectly evocative of the natural phenomenon it takes its title from.  ‘Watershed’ opens in wistful style, clean picked guitar painting a handsome melody. This one is still long but it is really quite pretty- offering relief from the previous heaviness. The chorus hook that repeats in the coda will stay with you too- believe me.

My album stand out comes next; ‘Life at the Loom’ is a superb track in every sense. Seven minutes plus of perpetual motion, the song is never still, rather it just presses onwards, building all the time, like frustration at being in a dead end job with no hope. Every day does indeed spin away, and the song makes the most of this motif- repeating where necessary but always with the sense that the track is going somewhere. It's only inside the last three minutes that things get heavy- it feels like a welcome release. ‘Child of the Bear’ is psych filled- lovely guitar fills- and a nice echo on the vocal. It's rhythmically interesting too. The ghost of Jim Morrison is most successfully invoked here. It provides the perfect bridge to the darker climes of ‘The Ballad of Hannah Dustin’. It is a slow burner- even over its relatively short playing time. It uses dynamics well with some lethal guitar chugging thrown in.

The album draws to a close with ‘The Return’- tom heavy rhythms and howling feedback start things, but the spoken word vocal grabs the attention and allows the tension to build. Vengeance is on the menu here, with a side of bloodshed and redemption. Fine riffs abound, pinning the track together. When the album ends, you most likely won't want it to. It's a complete record, a vision realised by a band that is not full time, but sounds as if they are. This is the true sound of the American heartland; primal, frustrated, yet still with hope. The album is one of a kind- there are elements of The Doors, as noted, but Crowbar is here too, as are numerous other reference points. I urge you to give it a try. It's a fine record, undoubtedly one of the best of the year and undoubtedly deserving of a wide audience. Help it find one.

Words by: Richard Maw

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