Even amongst a UK hardcore scene edging ever closer to becoming the country’s most prominent heavy subgenre, the emergence of London-based five-piece Ithaca has caused quite a stir. The band presented their violent vision and hinted at their potential on 2014’s volatile Narrow The Way and 2015’s excellent Trespassers, two releases that had listeners salivating at the thought of more, but brand new LP The Language Of Injury has surpassed simply satisfying fan’s appetite and instead given the global scene a collective food baby.
The attention Ithaca have received is no oddity – The Language Of Injury is a truly world-beating bout of furious metallic hardcore. Throughout, the band have concocted a thoroughly effective style on the album, sprucing up their rousing riffs with passages of ambient, sombre guitars and compelling vocal harmonies. It’s a remarkably effective approach, and one that refrains from predictability through a number of side-steps into less familiar territory, from the odd moment of blackened fury and the proggy post-metal touches of ‘CLSR’ and ‘Slow Negative Order’ to grungy number ‘Glint’.
After becoming enraptured by this thrilling full-length, we found ourselves eager to find out more about the inspirations behind it. To give us an insight, vocalist Djamila Azzouz, whose intimate and expressive lyrics fuel the album, has put together this list of lyrical inspirations on The Language Of Injury. Read on to gain a deeper understanding of one of this year’s early standouts.
Djamila: When we wrote this album, I wasn’t actually living in London with the other guys. I’d retreated to a tiny seaside village outside of Brighton just before we started the process. Mentally I was in bad shape and I just wanted to get away from it all for a bit. I spent most of my time alone there and it was pretty secluded. I spent too many nights sat in my attic room in the depths of a freezing winter, watching the wind whip against the dirty grey sea and I was so lonely. I thought it’d be a good time to reflect, but all I did was tear myself apart bit by bit, until eventually, I broke down. I was alone with my thoughts all the time and it was mental torture. I wrote the majority of the lyrics to this album here. Eventually, it got so bad that a friend drove from London at three in the morning to get me, put me in the car and I never went back.
The Spirit Of The Staircase
One of the all-embracing themes on The Language Of Injury is communication, or the lack thereof. Neglect. What’s said, but more importantly what isn’t. There are two sides to it – the first being the feeling of screaming yourself hoarse at someone who won’t listen to you. Trying to help someone who doesn’t want help. Trying to love someone who won’t love you. It’s not unrequited love, but something a lot more sinister and painful. The second, what you wish you’d said when you had the chance. Retrospect, and being able to look back on the situation with clarity. And with anger, and frustration, knowing that you didn’t say what you should have. ‘L’esprit de l’escalier’ or the spirit of the stairwell, as it were. I had some personal relationships that left me feeling like this -left me feeling hopeless and lost and desperate. And it was only at the end that I realised how much of a waste of time it had been. By putting someone else first who never did the same for me, I’d betrayed myself more than anything. “Please tell me was it fear that kept you here or was it just commiseration?”
I’ve had sleep paralysis for as long as I can remember. If you’ve ever experienced it, you’ll know exactly how harrowing and terrifying it is. I wouldn’t say I talk about explicitly but it’s kind of always just there. Tracks on the album like ‘Better Abuse’ really capture that feeling for me, a layering wall of noise, a completely crushing weight that feels like it’s closing in on you. Just feeling like you’re being swallowed whole by darkness and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. “And now I find myself nailed to the floor, cover my eyes and shield me from the walls.” I guess those feelings creep into my waking life too and are reflected in the other things I was going through at the time.
I’m so thankful to my bandmates for writing music that actually inspires me. Even though I write the lyrics, it’s a collaboration because a lot of the time I’m writing with the music in mind too – I’m not blindly trying to force words onto the parts. Having them write haunting passages and riffs that are just absolutely devastating blows to the back of the head make such a difference to me. Sometimes I’ll just go off on a tangent and write how I feel, sometimes I’ll sit and listen to the demos we’ve recorded and let it take me on a journey. A lot of the lyrics on this album come from how our music actually makes me feel. I think that’s maybe why it works so well.
The Language Of Injury is out now on Holy Roar. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr