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01. Folding Aces
02. The Longer You Wait
04. No Pain Goes Unpunished
06. Life Of Uncertainty
07. True Potential
10. Everything Has A Price
11. The Curse
In a world filled with bands "featuring former members of..." it's nice to see a group breaking into hardcore every once in a while that isn't chock full of well-established veterans. Hailing from Lexington, Kentucky, Dead Icons fills its ranks with relative new-comers who have made a name for themselves through DIY touring and smaller releases, building a following in a city that is not particularly known for its hardcore scene. The fact that this band is getting so much attention is especially refreshing to see given hardcore's tendency to put up blinders to bands that don't come from one of the bigger epicentres like Boston, New York or LA.
Before releasing Condemned, Dead Icons gained notoriety for their Vultures EP, and with good reason. This EP had a sense of honesty and recklessness that is usually only found in groups that are still wet behind the ears and playing music out of a sense of urgency and immediacy, before settling down into a more "mature" (re: formulaic and tepid) sound. It was no surprise that this fast-paced, hard-hitting release was able to get the attention of Bullet Tooth (new label of former Trustkill president Josh Grabelle) and helped secure touring spots with the likes of Gravemaker and Foundation.
The only thing that remained to be seen was whether Dead Icons would be able to keep up the momentum from their previous releases on their first full-length record. Condemned begins with “Folding Aces”, which wastes no time getting to the coarse screams of vocalist William Johns and crunchy riffs that are reminiscent of the band’s previous works. One of the most refreshing things about this band is their ability to refrain from relying on detuned guitars and forced guttural vocals. No instrument is ever lost in a sludge of down-tuned distortion, and John’s vocals are forceful, yet still quite clear by hardcore standards. This is best demonstrated on the second track “The Longer you Wait,” which remains one of the stand-out tracks of the album, relying on fast-paced metallic riffs that remind the listener how impressive straight-forward hardcore can be when it is done right.
As the album progresses there is no shortage of break-neck riffs, chugging breakdowns, and anger-filled diatribes regarding the standard hardcore topics (alienation, betrayal, perseverance, etc.). Tracks like “Vultures,” “Life of Uncertainty,” and “True Potential” show that hardcore doesn’t have to be flashy, experimental, or particularly innovative to get listeners to bang their heads or scream along.
While the rest of the songs on Condemned shouldn't be called generic, there is very little that makes Dead Icons stand out from other similar bands. One of the things that made Vultures so enjoyable was the unpolished quality of both the music and the vocals. This rawness helped set Dead Icons apart from other bands, and is unfortunately lost on this recording. The vocals are less dynamic and the guitar tone seems interchangeable with any number of current hardcore bands. This is not a criticism based in the desire for every hardcore band to sound as if they were recorded on their older brother’s cassette player, but rather a disappointment steeped in the unnecessary overproduction of a band whose sound was memorable because of its rough and organic intensity.
Bottom Line: For those who enjoy no-frills hardcore then this is the release for you. Despite some unremarkable moments, Condemned is a strong album by an impressive new band.
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