When Ithaca burst into UK metal in 2019 with their flawless, furious debut The Language Of Injury, any listener with a shred of insight knew something very special was emerging. Combining the taut, razor sharp riffage of metallic hardcore, with perceptive lyrics, nagging earworms and a refreshingly technicolour image, Ithaca instantly stood out in a genre awash with alpha beefcakes and cut and paste riffs. And the good news is, with They Fear Us they’ve done it again. By doubling down on both the aggressive and the melodic, as well as taking some surprising left turns, Ithaca have created an album that feels combative, reflective and triumphant in equal measure.
The explosive ‘In The Way’ opens the album with fury and grace. Discordant riffs and pounding drums provide the perfect foil for the emotive shouts of vocalist Djamila Boden Azzouz, before the track effortlessly glides into a melodic refrain that Chino Moreno and Billy Corgan would be proud of. Indeed, the album is sprinkled with some truly gorgeous cleans from Azzouz, whose vocals here are pushed comfortably and proudly much more to the fore than they were on the band’s debut. Elsewhere, on the caustic surge of ‘Number Five’ , the angular rage of ‘The Future Says Thank You’ and gnarly groove of ‘They Fear Us’ Ithaca prove they have lost none of their bite in the three years since their debut.
There are moments here however, where the band truly step out of their comfort zone and explore new textures. The slowly unfurling atmospherics of ‘You Should Have Gone Back’ complete with emotive lead guitar work by six stringer Sam Chetan-Welsh, shows a band willing to take left turns and follow their hearts, recalling Rolo Tomassi in its clever use of swelling dynamics. The exceptional closing track ‘Hold, Be Held’ is likely to be one of the most beautiful songs you’ll hear all year. With guitars that echo both Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine, ‘Hold, Be Held’ features achingly melancholic vocals from Azzouz, whose soulful melodies here are simply transcendent, bolstered further by stellar guitar leads from Chetan-Welsh that Prince would be proud of.
The quality of songwriting on display here is of a level you would normally associate with a band several albums and decades into their career. Furthermore, with They Fear Us, Ithaca, whilst still maintaining the youthful verve of their debut, are already looking far past the musical confines of their genre, further proof (if it’s needed) that they are set to become one of the most original and revered bands in metal. Simply put, one of the finest records you’re likely to hear all year.
They Fear Us is tomorrow via Hassle Records and can be purchased here.
Words: Adam Firth