Ikon - In The Shadow Of The Angel
Once I got it, it seemed to me to be so much better than many of the other Goth albums I have splashed out on. That this came out in 1994 is a bit of a shame because had it come out ten years earlier this would have undoubtedly set the standard for the genre. Some people have compared this to the Sisters of Mercy, a comparison which I do not see to the same extent, it seems as if comparing any Goth band to the Sisters of Mercy is pretty much de rigeur. Another oft-quoted comparator is Ian Curtis for the vocals, and while I can see the occasional resemblance, I see this album very much as a darker more miserable version of bands like the Sound.
What makes this stand out is that it is seriously catchy. The main reason is the use of the drum machine which provides a steady and driving beat to most of the tracks on the album. This is also the biggest drawback of the album because the limitations of machinery in this area tend to render all the tracks too similar in terms of sound and do not provide enough diversity between them. This means that the band has to rely on the pace and the mood much more, and this leads to serious limitations when almost all your songs are miserable and depressing.
The opener, "Condemnation" gets the album off to a good start with its sacrilegious subject matter, something which continues with the title at least of the next song, "Lord of Darkness". There then progresses a series of songs all of which take up various aspects of the opening theme, from the emotion of "Secrets Within" to the self-pity of the man scorned by the heartless woman of "Black Roses", one of the highlights. Another highlight is the cover of Death in June's "Fall Apart". However, the limitations of the musical framework begin to become apparent by now as what you have been treated to so far is a succession of standard Goth themes and musical formats - a kind of "woe is me" to the accompaniment of chopping guitars, drum machines and mood-setting synthesisers.
As if to accentuate this, the album's low point comes with the dirge, "Suicide". At this point it has almost become a parody of itself as what self-disrespecting Goth album would not be complete without a paean to the merits of taking one's own life? After that, "Love Is Colder than Death" may seem almost upbeat by comparison while the title track, the closer, seems a little out-of-place at this point. However, a lot of the criticism at this point may be largely due to issues around the track listing rather than the content. Improvements could have been made around this, but the album is what it is and there seems little point dwelling on something which is a given to that extent.
Ikon have pretty much carved themselves a niche with this album, one which draws its influences from Goth acts of the past but does not set out to mimic them blindly. But like all Goths, they suffer from the limitations which the genre places upon them. The Cure managed three albums of mind-bogglingly depressing material before they switched back to less melancholy material and then settled on something in between. Ikon have chosen to go up-tempo but downbeat in terms of content. They have managed to stake a claim to the middle ground between post-punk and Goth - music in the former category, lyrics and themes in the latter. When they move the music towards a more depressing tone, such as on "Suicide", they are weaker as a result. Still, there is plenty to admire in this album and it has its moments of true excellence. The problem is that too often one song sounds the same as the next, and when they don't the result is disappointment.
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