Ichor Depths 01Take a close look at this album cover and you’re bound to notice that it looks exactly like every other goddam modern death metal band’s album cover. This is no coincidence, seeing as an impressive chunk of death metal releases over the past decade have all been painted up by one man: Pär Olofsson. The guy’s website is a bizarre who’s who of modern death metal covers stripped of their identifying characteristics, so that any metalhead worth keeping around can have fun rattling off artists and titles as the paintings scroll by. Ichor are his latest patrons, and, in continuance with modern death’s gore/symmetry fetish, he felt compelled to draw them some purple tentacles for Depths.

The previous paragraph was not an opening digression; rather, it serves as an allegory for an important facet of Depths, one which emerges early on in one’s descent into the album.

Good news: Depths is brutal enough. No one would dare suggest that this is not, in fact, death metal, or that it’s not heavy or worthy of a few jerks of the neck. The bad news is that that’s pretty much the only thing that there is to say about it. It’s not a disgrace of mindless repetition, nor is it a work of stunning complexity. It borrows from other bands – “Apophis” almost immediately nabs some arpeggios from Fleshgod Apocalypse, and the album is no stranger to The Faceless’ riffing style – but not extensively, and usually not obtrusively or even identifiably.

The first, and quite probably only, song to peek above the tides of the riff sea established by “Apophis” and “Ra`iroa” is “While Giants Sleep.” While it’s in many ways a standard mid-tempo song, its punishing rank-and file riffing and simple, warbling leads are strangely effective. Its endlessly repeated vocal line reaches out towards a strained-tortured hardcore shout, and is all the more memorable for it. For variety, “The Heretic King” showcases one of the album’s brief and generally pedestrian solos, and “Desire of the Depth” features a remarkably boring breakdown, made even less heavy by the fact that it’s written at the exact same tempo as the rest of the album.

Ichor Depths 02

While the aforementioned songs are all unremarkable in their own right, none are so blisteringly generic as “The Beasts Approach,” which runs through pretty standard deathcore stomp riffs, brief flashes of The Black Dahlia Murder and a few thrashy parts. The bass performance is pretty cool, from what you can hear of it, and in fact most of the song is mildly enjoyable, just entirely devoid of interest. It’s a microcosm of the record as a whole – there are good riffs to be had, paired with competent drumming and occasionally audible basslines, but you’d be damned to find anything clever or original in the entirety of Depths. Just as its cover would suggest, it’s running with the pack, right in the middle of a glut of other bands writing basically the same music with the occasional gimmick or two. Depths is nearly impossible to distinguish as the work of a specific band, and instead seems to have assembled itself from a collection of death metal stem cells shed by literally every comparable band on Unique Leader or Nuclear Blast. Highlights are absent, personal touch Waldos embedded in a field of barbershops.

Everything is executed exactly as it is expected to be; the riffs are heavy enough, the vocals brutal enough, the bass quiet enough to be almost absent, and the album has a quiet, creepy intro and a pretty piano outro. It continues the deep sea/occult theme established by their last album, Benthic Horizon, which I suppose sets them apart from the crowd, but the last time lyrical themes made someone buy a death metal album was probably 1995. The album, much like this year’s release by The Kennedy Veil, is by no means bad, but given the surprising amount of very good death metal that 2014 has to offer there’s not really any reason to listen to it. At the end of the day, the only thing I can really say to Ichor is: “You guys made a death metal record. Good job.”


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Bastardized Recordings
Websites: Facebook/IchorOfficial
Release Dates: EU: 2014.09.05 | NA: 09.05.2014

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  • André Snyde Lopes

    That first paragraph reminds me of something that has been bothering me for quite a while: why the hell are there so many album covers with a sphere in the center? What’s so cool about a giant ball?

    The main offenders seem to be tech death bands, I mean, there’s two examples right there on the side bar in the form of Soreption and Origin (although Origin is at least a ball of humans, rather than just a regular old beach ball).

    It’s not creative, it’s not funny, it’s not interesting and it doesn’t entice me to buy the album. It was stupid when Scar Symmetry did it in 2005 and it’s just as stupid now.

    • Ever notice how many power metal records have a “good world/bad world” cover? Whoever did that first deserves a punch in the face.

      Though, I love the Origin art.

    • Kronos

      Album cover tropes are nearly as noticeable as the actual musical tropes these days. Case in point. Also, take a drink every time you see someone standing behind an altar on an extreme metal record.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      The Origin art is fantastic. I do like the idea of a death metal release with a happy beach ball cover though…

  • “You guys made a death metal record. Good job.”

    Perfect.

    • Kronos

      Was debating whether to include that. Glad you liked it.

  • Mike Eckman

    It is interesting how the metal world tends to latch onto a particular artist for their creative inspirations. I remember back in the late 90s/early 00s almost every Swedish band used artwork done by Kristian Wahlin (sp?). I mean, the guy was good, but you could spot his artwork instantly.

  • T.J. Barber

    It’s a shame Pär Olofsson’s work has been associated with boring bands, but then again, his work definitely falls into a lot of parallels there. I mean that in the sense that you are looking at artists who are clearly technically proficient, and definitely have the willpower to put out a body of work representing them… but it lacks character and substance. His work for Immortal and Immolation is absolutely amazing (especially the mountain piece for Immortal) but this space’y slam tech dethy stuff is just so… bleh.

    Does anyone else feel this way about Dan Seagrave’s work? It used to be a symbol of the who’s who in extreme metal, but now it seems like bands pick him up in a way to force the idea of how kvlt they are. While his work itself remains topnotch, the associated acts have really plummeted, which unfortunately makes me feel some negativity towards his work as well.

    Maybe I’m the only one that thinks about this stuff. But album art has an effect on how I feel about a band. Seth Siro Anton cover? Wow, I bet that sucks. Paulo Girardi? Let me stop what I’m doing and give this an honest to god listen.

    • Kronos

      Paulo Girardi did probably my favorite release this year.
      I’ll let you guess.

      • T.J. Barber

        Diocletian? I’m not sure, he hasn’t done much work this year (which is good), I think only 6 pieces?

        • Kronos

          Artificial Brain.

          • T.J. Barber

            RIGHT! I was looking at his paintings on FB to figure it out, I think he painted that cover last year, derp on my part, that album is going to be in my top ten of the year for sure.

          • Kronos

            Fantastic in every way. The writing is fantastic, the performances, excellent, and the production/mastering is, as should be expected from Colin Marston, peerless.

    • DrChocolate

      You’re not the only one, album art definitely has an effect on my choices as well. Honestly, and maybe it’s more about the bands who use it then the actual painter, but currently Olofsson is an immediate red flag to me – I can feel the 808 drops and pig squeals coming. (Immortal and Immolation being the exception, and I still love that Zonaria cover too). There was a time, back in the days of record stores, where a Michael Whelan cover was an immediate buy. Travis Smith was a solid indicator for a while too, his Katatonia stuff is some of my favorite.

      • T.J. Barber

        I had the pleasure of working with Travis Smith once, super friendly dude. I was doing the graphic design on an album he did the cover for and I needed elements. People probably look at that album and think he did everything, which can be the plight of my job, but it also means I really nailed it. I still think he’s very good but his style has changed quite drastically, I always think of him as a modern Dave McKean.

  • hubcapiv

    So…15 comments before this one: 13 about the art, 2 about the review, 0 about the music. That probably sums it up pretty well.

    However, giant ball will ALWAYS be cool.

    • André Snyde Lopes
    • T.J. Barber

      There isn’t really anywhere to talk about metal cover artwork, the Metal Band Art blog posts less than once a month, usually just a quick interview. There’s the Visual Art of Metal tumbler but no comments on it.

  • Best o’ both worlds. <3