Location: New York City, New York
Genre: Punk, hardcore
Full Length: Engine Of Apocalypse = 1988-2018: The First 30 Years
Label: All Rites Perverse
Format: CD (available for purchase on Bandcamp)
Release date: December 30, 2018
Iconicide is a name you’ve heard before if you’ve been reading Autoeroticasphyxium for some time. A few years ago I did an extremely intimate and indepth interview with frontman Chris the Antimessiah, who formed the band back in 1988 and has been raging against the system ever since. As I mentioned when reviewing their eighth full length “Give Me Extinction Or Give Me Death!”, this is not your typical punk band. If you expect typical or stereotypical, you will find your presumptions torpedoed and demolished as completely as everything you thought was true about the American Dream. Iconicide is a threat that is not going away.
This is not your typical punk band in musical terms. This is not even typical apocalyptic punk. Rather than warning about the downfall of civilization, it is a celebration of the inevitable, both intimate and cataclysmic. Aside from metal, punk and hardcore, Chris grew up on Motown, soul, old time big bands and crooners and even polka. If you listen to Iconicide’s music as closely as their lyrics you couldn’t accurately say they limit themselves to a single genre as their diverse influences spill into their formula. Add gruff vocals with harsh, brutal lyrics described as “scorched earth blues” and you have the logical progression of 90s street punk that, while being calamitous and ill-boding, breaks its mold and creates its own subgenre. Iconicide goes beyond this.
Finally, on to their latest album. Released in 2018, “Engine Of Apocalypse = 1988-2018: The First 30 Years” commemorates Iconicide’s thirty years as a band as it pays homage to former members who passed away in the second half of the last decade (Shane Keogh, Mario Rienzo, Roger Arson, Lynn Haze). Chris was candid enough to email me additional information on the twenty-five songs included here, and suffice it to say they’re all of an extremely personal nature. In some cases too personal to mention in this review. You might find them unattractive and disturbing in their depiction of human ugliness and humanity’s tendency for self-destruction. But upon reading their lyrics and the accompanying blurbs I find them undeniably earnest and thought provoking.
“Engine of Apocalypse” is divided between studio tracks (tracks 1-11) and live recordings (tracks 12-24), with the final track being a spoken word piece by Mario Rienzo aka Maj Da Beast. The members of the band who passed away (Shane Keogh, Mario Rienzo, Roger Arson, and Lynn Haze - who appears on the front cover in a photo taken two months before his death) appear on the live recordings to commemorate their time in the band. Also some of the live songs were performed only once, and haven’t been part of the band’s set list since. I couldn’t discuss all these tracks in detail without taking up a page or two, so I’m going to recall several that caught my attention for one reason or another as I pass along a little of the background information I was sent.
“Walk Towards the Light”, the first from the track list, sounded to me like a slower Discharge with some metal added. Lyrically it brings to light the decline of progress, the rush of the human race toward extinction and its inevitable conclusion. Basically the concept that serves as the basis of this album. “Evolution” and “Engine of Apocalypse” reiterate those ideas, adding that industry and human greed go hand in hand and will achieve no bright future.
“Cicatrice” is a heavy and hypnotic song fusing metal, blues and reggae, described as “part lullaby, part love song, and part funeral dirge.” It is based on a character of the underground novel by Chris, SickWorld! I’ve never read this, but after looking it up on Amazon it seems an intriguing tale. “SickWorld Global Anthem” is likewise based on his book; the lyrics go well with the rest of the album. “Defenders of the Faith, Blindest of the Blind” is one of the bleakest of all these songs, with lyrics to match: “Rotting in slumber, lulled by screams/Self mutilation, death in dreams/Divine damnation, charnel creed/A new perversion all we need.” Not a pretty picture of organized religion, and it ends with blind faith leading to death and suicide, as does “Whoreship.” Jism from Ism appears playing keyboards on “SickWorld Global Anthem” (appearing as Chris wrote it back in 1984, later to be covered by NYC’s The Denied) and other songs including “Cicatrice,” which features guest vocals by Kim Kaos of The Graveyard School.
“Top of the Charts” is like a breath of fresh air after long being exposed to “rock star” hype and sanctimonious preaching about “open mindedness” (except when it comes to anything that challenges what’s “popular”). This song would bug the shit out of people with its mockery of arena rock, but the people it would piss off probably deserve it. Easily one of my favorites from this album. “Biochipped” and “We Who Are About to Die” tell you it’s the end of the road as we blindly accept the new world order at face value. All with a sound and attitude that makes much of the acid rock of the late sixties sound lightweight, “Engine of Apocalypse” demands to be heard and mulled over during many a sleepless night. And will make you want to hear more. –Dave Wolff
1. Walk Towards the Light
2. Wirehanger Abortion
3. Sanity by Default
4. Suffer This
6. Engine of Apocalypse
8. Eat Shit or Starve
9. Sickworld Global Anthem
10. Lurking in the Darkness
11. Wirehanger Abortion Original Version
12. Darkened Skies
14. Defenders of the Faith, Blindest of the Blind
15. Top of the Charts
16. The Hell You Made
17. Feelings Fears and Fate
20. Just Do It
22. Just a Child
23. Lemming Nation
24. We Who Are About to Die
25. A Message from Maj da Beast