Review: ICOSA – The Skies Are Ours [EP]

ICOSA are a band that may at first seem a little outside of the remit of a blog/zine such as TwoBeatsOff. Theirs is a sound that leans towards the heavier edge of the spectrum, and dare I say it, even includes elements of prog. But then you could make the case that the sound ICOSA make is so dense, complicated and varied that they exist well and truly outside of the remit of any blog. Blink 182 this certainly is not. On their debut EP The Skies Are Ours, ICOSA get to showcasing their madly ambitious and endlessly technical noise.

It has to be said; this is not a release for the faint hearted. It opens with ‘Emangulatr’, a piece which gets close to nudging the seven minute mark. Mostly instrumental, ‘Emangulatr’ refuses to sit on one idea for any significant portion of the songs epic run time, taking a dizzying tour through icy, atmospheric synths to Russian Circles-style post-rock riffing and into Dillinger Escape Plan-esque math rock. There are sharp turns everywhere and like the most complex Tool songs, it is completely impossible to follow or find a single hook to latch on to on the first few listens. This is a sound which is so complex and convoluted that it bares – no, demands – repeated plays. There is a wealth of content in here to discover which slowly reveals itself play by play.

Next up is the first part of the EP’s title track which, if ‘Emangulatr’ made your head spin, will probably do away with the pleasantries and tear it straight off the end of your neck. There is a disorientating amount going on here and it is easily the most incomprehensible of the lot, being the kind of impenetrable math noise that would not be out of place on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label. The intro riff isn’t a million miles away from something that might have appeared on Ginger Wildheart’s Mutation’s Error 500 album, and just like that style, it then descends into a mind blowing brain-melter of a tune. It’s either true genius or a total mess. After some delay-drenched guitars signalling a moment of calm, part two of the title track is a slightly more conventional piece. If you like your riffs to be totally punishing and relentless, this one is for you.

The final track on the EP, ‘Trepidation’, ends the collection on perhaps its most conventional note. Slow and lumbering, Trepidation takes its cues from bands like Baroness and Mastodon more than the technical post-rock and math influences previously hinted at. However, that’s not to say that ‘Trepidation’ is any less imaginative than the other songs; there is still mutation halfway through where the track lurches into a full-on thrash metal attack.

With this EP, ICOSA have marked themselves out as a band with plenty of skill and no end of ideas to boot. This is a record which makes absolutely zero sense upon first listen, but give it time and The Skies Are Ours will reveal itself to you –and the rewards are impressive and plentiful.

4 out of 5 high fives!