I.C.O.N - The Blacklist
Manchester’s I.C.O.N. just released their second album, The Blacklist, on the 15th of June. With relative hype in the lead up to the release, I was looking forward to this hard rock/metal album. I’ve heard some good things from locals- who tell me they’re pretty nifty in a live setting- so I was expecting something. Not amazing, but something interesting. Especially since it’ll be I.C.O.N.’s second album with UK label Metalbox Recordings. And they’ve supported some pretty brutal acts, the likes of Breed 77 and Voodoo Six, before this.
I was fairly disappointed.
First and foremost, the vocals are subpar, vocalist Mark Sagar sounds like my drunk friends trying to sing along to metal. You know, that not-quite-growling/straining of the voice kind of singing along you hear a lot at gigs when lads show their enthusiasm for the band playing. I find it hard to believe that in the 15 years since I.C.O.N. was formed, not once has someone come along and said, “Eh, lads, I don’t really think Mark here suits these songs. Shall we try something different?”
Likewise, the lyrics aren't fantastic either. They just don’t sound like something a bunch of grown men with writing capabilities would pen. They’re simplistic in the worst way possible, and they just generally sound awful, with the oddest rhyming in certain songs. It’s hard to take a band seriously when the words they scream (badly) sound like something a 14 year old would write during class.
Instrumentally, though, I can’t really complain. The riffs are more often than not pretty catchy, such as my favourite (or least disliked song on this album) Welcome To My War, and I can just imagine that they would sound amazing live. The beats are fast and hard and the drumming is varied. The mixing itself sounds good, too. Honestly, everything aside from the vocals is pretty damn good, and are leaning towards an exceptional album. An exceptional instrumental album.
The packaging of The Blacklist, though, is pretty damn professional. It’s definitely one thing they did right. The cover is a simple black with a kind of Celtic filigree around the band and album titles. The booklet itself contains the usual ‘Thanks to Mum, Dad, and the babysitter I had when I was 5’ from each member of the band, as well as the lyrics to all of the songs. I don’t know about you, but actually having the lyrics handy is one of the main reasons I still buy physical albums. If all else fails, this album will look good snuggled in my album tower.
In summation; I was hoping for something more than I got from this album. Head banging galore, sure, but that’s pretty much it. And certainly not for the vocals. I wouldn’t call this album a train wreck, but a lot can be improved for the next time I.C.O.N. head for the studio (hopefully with a different vocalist in tow). I wouldn’t really complain if they popped onstage at a gig for a few songs, but I wouldn’t be recommending the album to non die-hard fans, either.
-Editor's note: Music is relative; something sickly can taste sweet and delectable to another set of taste buds and our man Mick Birchall does indeed provide a polar opposite in opinion. Reflecting on their set supporting Breed 77 back in May, here's what he had to say:
"Well these guys were fun. These brutal metallers lit the stage on the fire and left it all on the stage. A fantastic performance to say the least. I’d heard about these guys in recent months and I have to say, they lived up to their hype and I was thrilled with what I got. The singer was energised and really got the crowd going. The band just created an awesome noise that was enveloping and interesting. Their riffs were tight and the execution of the songs was great. All their songs were well structured and the set flowed pretty naturally. In short I thought Icon were fun and interesting. If you ever get a chance they’re worth checking out."
Words: Missy Beaudelot