Sunday, 18 August 2013

Ice Dragon - Born a Heavy Morning (album review)

Cover artwork by Samantha Allen.
I've mentioned, showcased, posted about or discussed Ice Dragon more than any other band on this blog, hell, more than any two bands, for several reasons.  For one thing, the prolific nature of the band's output has offered more than enough grist for this mill, another thing is how the band continues to pump out consistently high quality music while remaining equally consistent in challenging the listener with the ever widening twists and turns of their musical choices and also, I have this overblown and fairly pretentious notion that this quartet is the most "important" underground band of the internet age.  They are the standard bearers for "how it's done", they are the blue collar, no bullshit band that you and your buddies would be if you could be.  There is no hype, no pretension and no desperation in this band.  They just get together on Friday night, grab a pizza and a couple cases of beer, jam, argue, create heavy music, then release the results to the public when we least expect it.  By my count, 'Born a Heavy Morning' is the band's sixth full-length album since 2010 (and seventh overall including their first effort, recorded in 2007 and released in 2012).

First of all, in spite of the title of the album, 'Born a Heavy Morning' is not the band's heaviest effort, so do not expect a Tentaclesque return to 'Tome of the Future Ancients'.  Vocalist Ron Rochondo says about this new album, "It's called "Born a Heavy Morning", though it's not very "heavy".  It's sort of Dream Dragon meets Sorrowful Sun.  Heavy as in ... bummer.  Or weighing you down".  I asked him if it felt like the rainy morning after 'Dream Dragon'.  "Sort of," he said, "this one is a bit like that one in the overall sound, but the lyrics and feel of everything are more like 'The Sorrowful Sun'.  It's kind of a "concept" album.  Kind of".  This writer's take on the "concept" in question is that in which a man feels the burden of life, like Atlas bearing the weight of the world, 'Born a Heavy Morning'.

The album opens up on a bright note with a sixties feel, as the morning sun streams in through the bedroom curtains of "Wakin' Up".  Once more, the vibe is somewhat reminiscent of the kind of material found on Ice Dragon's 'Dream Dragon' album, the song is infused with the hopeful enthusiasm of youth and that feeling carries over into "We'll Go on a Trip You & I" all the way until the middle of the record with "The Deeper You Go".  Before long however, the drudgery of everyday life takes hold and grips the listener in heavy grimness on "We Are the Hopeless" and "Square Triangle" before the day ultimately ends with some heavy reflection on "(I'll Watch) My Hair Grow".  Basically this album feels like the ultimate "kick-in-the-nuts" kind of day.

'Born a Heavy Morning' is indeed a heavy listen, fearless and unrelenting as it boots listeners in the nuts.  As I briefly described before, it starts out strong and with a good head nodding feel, reminding me a lot of those rare psychedelic / folk LPs from the 1970's by groups and musicians with names like Ferris Wheel, Father Yod & Ya Ho Wa, The Yays & Nays, Bobb Trimble and others from the Acid Archives.  Somehow, the front half of the album captures a specific mood for me of sun streaming into a dusty old barn in a failing hippie commune.  Perhaps it taps into that rural "going to the country" mindset of the Woodstock generation.  Of course, these divisions are not truly so precise as I make them out to be here because I think I often see symmetry where there is none, but the change into darker territory is stark at this point in the album as the sunsoaked, lazing by the riverside mood of "The Deeper You Go" gives way to the cold urban mood of "We Are the Hopeless".  "Square Triangle" is a strong musical equivalent of sunset.  Ice Dragon has never shied away from depression as subject matter and the mood really sinks in here on this track.  This is why 'Born a Heavy Morning' is a "heavy listen" after all.  If you're not expecting it on first listen, the change in mood will punch you in the gut and your reaction to the overall album may not be favorable because of this.  But, if you stick with the album it is rewarding.  "I'm Lost" brings us a slice of classic Ice Dragon will howling vocals, loud crash and a spiral bound wah infected riff.

The album also uses four short interludes in the form of vignettes all with long titles beginning with the phrase "In Which a Man ...", the concept behind which is reminiscent of "The Man" section from Pink Floyd's "The Man & The Journey" suites from their 1969 tour (find out a bit more about that here) and the execution of which slightly resembles "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" from 'Atom Heart Mother', only I'd say these selections are a lot more musical here.  If a comparison has to be made to Ice Dragon's own back catalog, then it's true that this album can be seen as a combination of the laconic soundscapes of  'Dream Dragon' and the morose tidings of 'Greyblackfalconhawk' or some of the darker moments on 'The Sorrowful Sun'.  But if ever there were a band whose each and every project deserved to be judged solely on its own merits it's Ice Dragon and 'Born a Heavy Morning' is (no surprise here) its own beast.  This is what I love about this band.  Every time they step up to the plate you can forget everything you know about them as they refuse to repeat themselves, constantly expanding their horizons while maintaining an identifiable sound that is all their own.  Based on the sounds found on this particular album, 'Born a Heavy Morning' takes its place in the upper tier of the band's collected works (keep in mind that the band also comprises some five (maybe more?) other incarnations / associated acts).

Highlights include: "I'm Lost" and "The Past Plus The Future Is Present"

Rating: 4.5/5


Total Run Time: 48:16

Ron (Vocals, Synths, Drums)
Joe (Bass, Acoustic Guitar)
Carter (Guitars)
Brad (Drums)

From: Boston, Massachusetts

Genre: Psychedelic, Stoner, Drone, Doom, Experimental

Reminds me of: rare 1970's home-recorded psychedelic / folk LPs, Pink Floyd, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Season of Decay / The Humble Titan single

Release Date: August 13, 2013

Interview with Ron (featuring a dozen or so other links)

Ice Dragon on facebook

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the nice and detailed review. Physical copies of this release are available on Navalorama Records and will eventually be available on Ice Dragon's bandcamp

    ReplyDelete
  2. According to Ice Dragon the cover art is by Ron's lady Samantha Allen, not Adam Burke.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent, thank you, Seth! I was speculating there that it was Burke art, haha!

      Where did you find the info?

      Delete

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