Ichor - Depths - (7.5/10)
Published on August 1, 2014
Presentation is a tricky bitch in the realm of death metal. On one hand you want every instrument to be audible; on the other, since you’re playing some of the most extreme music known to man, there needs to be a certain lack of restraint, a certain level of dementedness. Nailing both sides of this bloody nickel isn’t easy, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been done.
Germany’s Ichor, a death metal quintet from Trier, Rhineland-Palatinate, have all the requisite bang and bite, but the necessary atmosphere, a common ailment amongst modern death, is unfortunately lacking on their third, and still greatest, full-length album, Depths, yet another record dedicated to the lore of Lovecraft and the siren call of the oceanic drift.
A glance at Depth’s unbearably pretty underwater cover art may intimate that Ichor are perhaps aligned with a tech-death roster at a label like Unique Leader, but tech-death, in the strictest sense, they are not. Aptly cited as deathcore for past albums The Seige and Benthic Horizon, Ichor have emerged an altered beast with Depths, a heavily grinding death metal album that retains deathcore influence in the form of mechanical breakdowns and the occasional burly-meets-shrill vocal pairings.
Ichor’s sound is heavier and more hectic, but not by much; Benthic Horizon was a systematic meltdown, no doubt whetting the palates of many Beneath the Massacre fans – coincidentally, two of the five members of Ichor play in another death-grind act called Massacre the Wasteland. Ichor’s dense rhythm section causes significant damage; the onslaught of bass and heavy drums send tremor surges below the whitecaps of frenzying dual guitars. Likewise, when they’re not immersed in a fray of slashing, buzzing riffs, the guitars wisely inject melodious solos, courteous respites to the band’s incessant fight and a quality reminiscent of acts like Misery Index, Man Must Die, or The Black Dahlia Murder.
Although Depths occasionally confuses rambling for riffing, the record houses its share of rowdy giants; “Apophis” is a bulldozer of a song with jagged tempo changes and a constant build in tension, “The Beasts Approach” rampages in a style similar to Italy’s The Modern Age of Slavery, and “Deny Your God” is a pummeling ode to blasphemy in the clotted vein of Aeon.
Ichor’s latest is undeniably well-played, irrefutably heavy, but its biggest drawback must be its crystalline production. Depths is a polished product that doesn’t mesh with the album’s deep-murk lore of ship-stealing monsters and ungodly mythos. A muddier atmosphere could have done this album a world of good, ala fellow countrymen Defeated Sanity or Suplur Aeon, or perhaps one of those occult death metal bands from Mexico like Zombiefication or Question. It would have added a much more foreboding sense of dread and hostility to the otherwise technical viciousness. Something grimmer, darker would have given this album the necessary asphyxiated malice it deserves.
While their namesake equates to the fluid that flows like blood in the veins of the gods, Ichor are a still a few shades away from deification. Still, Depths has plenty of teeth and is definitely heavy enough to be deemed a keeper.