“I’m not here to make friends.”
As statements of Ithaca‘s intent go, this screamed refrain is about as concise as they come. Ithaca have been a near-constant presence in London’s teeming hardcore scene for some years now. Finally, after two EPs and countless shows, their hard work has been rewarded with the release of their debut full-length, The Language of Injury, on the illustrious Holy Roar Records, putting them in league with some of the finest talents in angry, spiky music the UK has to offer.
And, make no mistake, Ithaca are as angry and as spiky as they come. Sitting at the metallic end of the hardcore spectrum, they have stuffed the half-hour runtime of The Language of Injury with meaty riffs and jagged discordance, served up with an unapologetically in-your-face attitude, with the charge being led by the diminutive but nevertheless imposing presence of their frontwoman Djamila. On stage, they exude a “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” attitude, and they have managed to replicate much of this brash, confrontational mindset in the more sterile environs of the studio. Impressive.
It’s therefore unsurprising that they don’t waste time with introductory pleasantries, kicking off The Language of Injury with a pair of unreconstructed shitkickers, “New Covenant” and lead single “Impulse Crush”. The latter track, frankly, makes the purchase of the album worthwhile on its own, thrillingly caustic and slowing to the kind of glorious, grinding breakdown guaranteed to trigger all kinds of moshpit carnage with its Dillinger-esque combo of thick choppy chugs and high-pitched squeals. This no-nonsense approach brings puts them in a similar space to scene titans Employed To Serve, and is reminiscent of the glory years of the Trustkill Records roster, Poison The Well and Walls of Jericho in particular.
The Language of Injury is not an especially dynamic affair, but “Slow Negative Order” drops the tempo a little, and both it and the album’s title track feature a few strains of clean singing, which opens a potential avenue for further exploration in the future. But the refrain I mentioned at the top of the review, featuring in the punishing “Youth Vs Wisdom”, very much sets the tone for this release.
It would be fair to say, however, that even though Ithaca have been gestating for some time, they don’t quite feel like the fully finished product just yet. Whilst the riffs on which the songs are built are absolutely rock solid, they are denied some of their punch by drums which sound rather wooden and even a little timid at times. It’s hard not to be left with the impression that a more imaginative, more feral approach to the percussion, especially in the transitions to those punishing breakdowns, could have pushed some of these songs into ‘essential’ territory, as opposed to being a really promising starting point.
Similarly, for all of the attitude and personality that Djamila brings to her vocals, there is still some work to be done in developing her technique beyond what is admittedly an impressive roar. At present, it does feel like a bit of a blunt instrument, and whilst it serves their purposes for the time being, in the longer term it could cause practical issues with an increasingly busy gig calendar, and may end up painting her into a sonic corner as the band’s sound develops.
But these issues feel closer to growing pains than fundamental issues, and they certainly do not detract from The Language of Injury‘s worth as a debut album. Like any good opening salvo, the album sets out Ithaca’s stall with a minimum of fuss and nonsense, gives a couple of tantalising hints about where they could go in the future, and provides plenty of opportunities for finding oneself upside down in a moshpit along the way. The Language of Injury might not completely set the hardcore world aflame, but it does show that Ithaca have the potential to develop into something really special, and that, with fair skies and following winds, it’s probably not going to take them all that long to get there. Exciting times.
The Language of Inquiry released February 1, and you can purchase it now through Ithaca’s Bandcamp.