The Icarus Line//Slave Vows

On the surface all thunderous bass, crunching guitar and dark atmospherics, The Icarus Line are actually a surprisingly funky band beneath all the gloom. Somehow combining stoner rock, post-rock and the 70s strut of a band like The Doors, they manage to stand out in the increasingly cluttered field of psychedelic stoner rock.

Much like True Widow, their real achievement lies in their impeccable sense of balance and time. The songs frequently push the 5 or 6 minute mark but are well constructed enough to be repetitious without being dull. Unlike their contemporaries however, they also aren’t afraid to change a song up and engage a more straight up rock sensibility and go hell to leather for a few minutes. In that respect they’re actually more similar to Queen’s of the Stone Age – particularly on their more latest, more reserved, release – but just lacking that killer sound.

With so many points of reference already, it’s clear that The Icarus Line don’t stand out that much, but they shake things up enough to not really be faulted for it. Songs like the Suicide-esque No Money Music show just how far out there they can go and demonstrate that even after five albums the band still have a few tricks up their sleeve.

It’s also hard to fault them for touching on so many sounds because, well, they really do. The core is generally the same but it’s approached with invention and ingenuity on each track. It’s varied, but without sacrificing too much in the way of cohesion.

But still, somehow, they remain frustratingly undefined. All those bands I’ve compared them too have had a distinct, identifiable sound. Their music had an identity; Slave Vows doesn’t. They flit between styles with consistent class, but at the end you’re no closer to pinning down what sort of band The Icarus Line are.  I hate to use such a vague term,  but they really are missing an X Factor. That stamp of authority that says ‘We are The Icarus Line, and this is what we do’. After five albums you feel that should be there.

Musically excellent, structurally cohesive and consistently good from start to finish; Slave Vows is nonetheless strangely unsatisfying. It is an excellent album, but a forgettable one. The diversity of sounds that help The Icarus Line stand out is also the very thing that leaves it feeling so hollow and soulless.


Listen to: Dark Circles, Rat Ass, Marathon Man

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