I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this, but 2019’s debut The Language of Injury was one of the biggest contributors to my rekindled passion for and

2 years ago

I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this, but 2019’s debut The Language of Injury was one of the biggest contributors to my rekindled passion for and reintegration into underground music. To make a very long story short, I’d taken a little sabbatical from the heavy music world for a handful of years. Around 2018-19 I started dipping my toes back in, falling in love with bands like Venom Prison, The Callous Daoboys, and of course, Ithaca. It was hard not to! That earnest, venomous, grimy, gorgeous melodic metalcore, at times blackened and mathy while bordering on crust and skramz in its most feedback-laden, heartrending indulgences was pure gold to me. The Language of Injury gave me hope again in a world of boring, overproduced pseudo-djent that was still dominating the landscape at the time.

Fast forward to the here and now: Brexit, COVID, me joining the Heavy Staff. So many critically panned and objectively awful things have happened, but Ithaca glowing the fuck up is certainly not to be counted among them. From the opening moments of sophomore effort They Fear Us, the knives are already out and inlaid with gold and ivory. Production values have risen dramatically across the board, opening Ithaca up to build layers of effusive, mesmerizing melodies while surgical-grade panic chords puncture the bliss on “In the Way”. Blistering ahead, “The Future Says Thank You” twists the listener through blast beats and ardent, meandering Misery Signals riffs before title track “They Fear Us” slithers up your spine to arrest control of your central nervous system via infectious groove and repeated medusean calls to bow to vocalist Djamila Boden Azzouz. Yes, queen.

Credit is due massively to the group for their performance on this record. Everyone shows a marked improvement in their chops, and they’re not afraid to flex their newfound muscles. The riffs leap and tumble with the urgent acrobatics of Protest The Hero while Azzouz’s husky throat is clearer and more powerful than ever, even managing the best Deftones nod anyone’s pulled off this year on “Number Five”. Perhaps my favorite track, “Fluorescent” recalls a pop vocal version of great crymosh anthems like Killswitch Engage‘s “The Arms of Sorrow”, but “You Should Have Gone Back” is the most intriguing track on the whole record. Massive in scope, it’s Ithaca’s most progressive song, rowing through pensive, somber synths before building to euphoric heights.

Album finale “Hold, Be Held” is honestly its crown jewel. Born of 80s and 90s soul-infused pop rock, drowning in bright delay, saccharine synths, and healing singalong energy, the Savage Garden-by-way-of-Svalbard ballad genuinely brought me to tears after a chaotic, cathartic journey through the record. The pacing of this album is truly sensational. Just as they did with their first full-length, Ithaca have engineered an exhilarating, emotional ride that’s perfectly satisfying in every way. Where The Language of Injury felt rough around the edges, They Fear Us is glammed up and sure of itself, flaunting its bittersweet revelations and patriarchal eviscerations with precision and style. It’s everything you could ask for from a follow-up to an already stellar debut. Hurry onto the hype train before it leaves the station.

They Fear Us is out Friday, July 29th via Hassle Records. Listen and pre-order through Bandcamp above.

Calder Dougherty

Published 2 years ago