Released 15th October 2013 – Tooth And Nail Records
Electronic/ Punk/ Metal/ Alternative/ Rock/ Rap
The second album from Christian (though they deny to category) elctro-punk band Icon For Hire kicks off with an intense burst of pounding energy. The guitars come from the old-school of industrial metal, and the drum lines provide a solid backbone for the flailing synth lines and frantic dark-pop vocals. The whole mixed-bag of genres that sit in this record all work together very well considering how much awful genre bending exists out in the world today. Icon For Hire seem to actually know what they’re doing, which always a pleasant thing to hear.
Some of the tracks (Nerves, Rock And Roll Thugs) do fall somewhat into the realms of pop predictability, sounding like a heavier version of Pink’s Funhouse/ I’m Not Dead era. This, however, isn’t really much of a downside, because the band seem to write hooks and beats equally well for both the heavier and lighter sides of their music. I’ve also got to say that singer Ariel’s vocals are exquisite. They hit pitch consistently without ever sacrificing power for tonality and her range of abilities and styles is impressive. The way she switches seamlessly between speed-rap, power-pop flourish, and punk inspired gutsiness in a track like Sugar And Spice, for example is just wonderful.
Don’t be scared off by the ‘Christian’ label with which the group has been tagged. Yes, they profess themselves to be eager followers of their chosen religion, but lyrically this record doesn’t come across as at all god-bothering. There are the occasional moments where things get almost overt, but overall there is a more a sense of optimism and purpose in their music than blind following. A nice contrast to the moping ‘scene’ that has developed around this kind of pop-punk music in the last ten or so years. Really, it’s no more annoying than you’re average straight-edge diatribe, perhaps even less so because there’s not as much pious judgement in this.
One issue I do have with Icon For Hire, however, is that many of the choruses on the record become rather blended. I mean, the hooks are great, the breakdowns are powerful, and the overall flow is exquisitely driving, but by the third or fourth repeat of chorus line in the one track it does become a little overbearing. I mean, every time that chorus rolls around I know exactly what I’m in for: drums drop back to four-on-the-floor, guitar creates a fuzzy wall of noise, and vocals flood the aural space with as much noise as the possibly can while still staying on key. A good technique to be sure, but too much repetition tends to lessen the impact, and when precisely the same method is used in each and every cut it does become a bit boring towards the end.
Really, much of this issue can probably be put down to the worrying trend of over-compression that is taking over pop music today. I mean, there’s really not a whole lot of dynamic range in the entire album when you come right down to it, but at least Icon For Hire usually have the smarts to drop instrumental lines in and out occasionally and switch up their riffs enough to hide that fact.
Also, as great as Ariel’s vocals generally are, she really isn’t up to the emotion of the slow tracks. Luckily, there’s not many of them on the thing, and most of the time the track will throw itself into some form of hard-rock before here breathy lack of depth actually becomes annoying, but I’ve got to say that Fix Me really was grating.
Overall, however, I’d have to say that Icon For Hire’s self-titled release is definitely one of the better records that has come out this year. It’s grabbing and has a certain degree of originality to it which, while not overly exciting, is truly pleasing to the ears. It will be a hit with the pop-punkers, the light-metallers, the electro-rockers, the popsters, and even the Christians. Nobody’s been left out, and there’s a little something for everybody.
- Icon For Hire Announce Album Pre-Order and Start Tour (drivenfaroff.com)
- Icon For Hire: Tour Starts This Week & Album Preorder Is Announced (pittsburghmusicmagazine.com)
- Event Watch: Icon For Hire at Portland’s Hawthorne Theatre Oct. 10 (tesscatherineb.wordpress.com)
- Album Review: Icon For Hire by Icon For Hire (thealykat.wordpress.com)
- North of The Border; The definition of Pop Punk (poppunkworld.com)
- Icon For Hire (daroomiesroom.wordpress.com)