Raised by rabid environmentalists with a taste for the eastern Oregon high desert in the summers, the only true respite from weeks of geophagia-by-proxy and near silent bird photography came once a year with the all day drive to the town of Joseph, Oregon. By the late 80’s the timber industry had collapsed and the bronze foundries had already begun to hit hard times in what has remained a roughly 1,000 person town for the decades since. We were there for Wallowa Lake, to camp its regenerated forests and jump into its freezing cold water. It remains a pristine and spiritual haven that greatly influenced myself as a person; By 1990 I was old enough to learn why the town was called Joseph and discover the cruel native american genocide that it attempts commemorate as the birthplace of Hinmatóowyalahtq̓it (Chief Joseph). There is great sorrow and injustice in the (even more damning) true life details to his infamous story of defiance far beyond what’d been represented in the 1975 ‘made for television’ film ‘I Will Fight No More Forever‘; For a kid approaching ten years old the movie’s representation of the blood-soaked, visceral destruction of a people provided absolutely life changing gravitas of guilt and surely galvanized my young mind against the injustices that the United States employed to win the western region. What better ‘red pill’ for a shit-headed suburban white kid raised in the delirium of the 80’s to feel the conquered, and drained, wetlands where I lived filled with the spectral blood of the land’s true ancestors. Back in the early 90’s the catharsis of hardcore punk tribalism was enough to incense a nerd like me but, today musicians more frequently point towards the unjust treatment of native peoples across the globe as novel theme and occasional serious activism alike. Ottawa, Ontario heavy metal project Ice War uses the injustices of the past to illustrate the deeper plight of the present; The realization that most all of western civilization was not only built from oppression but designed to perpetually oppress the settlers of ‘Manifest Destiny’ for millennia beyond.
Born into, and inspired by, the great Canadian traditions of metal/punk hybridization alongside the burgeoning trend of purist speed metal post-Toxic Holocaust and Inepsy boons across North America prolific and multi-talented musician Jo Capitalicide began kicking around in speed metal and punk hybridization officially around 2003 as a key member of Trioxin 245. From that point until today Capitalicide maintains his skills as a drummer but with each project his active role has increased to the point of this latest venture, Ice War, existing entirely as a solo project. Though a thread of raw Canadian speed metal informed Bastardator and the remarkably catchy NWOBHM-tinged rip of Iron Dogs, Ice War‘s two full-length albums across three short years have managed to turn back the clock to the latest of 70’s towards pure and unadulterated heavy metal sounds. ‘Manifest Destiny’ concerns itself with the brightest, galloping era of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the late 70’s but before you whip out a joint and fire up Saxon’s “Frozen Rainbow” think somewhere along the lines of Angel Witch‘s ‘Sweet Danger’ EP or the earliest Persian Risk singles were they performed by former UK ’77 era punks. It is pure heavy metal to be sure, and ultimately along the lines of early Iron Maiden above all else, but Capitalicide‘s work always comes informed by classic punk melodies that often follow guitar lines; This works especially well on an album so clearly inspired by NWOBHM.
Whereas ‘Ice War’ (2017) had some clear lineage with the direction Iron Dogs were headed in before the duo split into Obscure Burial and Ice War, ‘Manifest Destiny’ dashes some of the early Anvil style riffing for a sound just an inch closer to Manilla Road‘s ‘Metal’ era lilt while maintaining the pace and feeling of an unsure 1980 heavy metal bands debut record where the musicians still felt the 80’s could do without the innovations of ‘Killing Machine’. Though ‘Manifest Destiny’ does offer some stylistic re-evaluation and a focus on tighter melodic statements throughout it avoids the ‘Killers’-alike tag with a stripped down, analog sound devoid of the thicker studio reverb that plagued the more unhinged parts of the debut, the result is an album that sounds adaptable between both club and festival. I only wish the bass guitar work had a bit more character, a slightly more wandering spirit (or percussive tone) to thaw out some of the colder post-punk feeling that permeates this otherwise understated retro heavy metal album.
I came away from ‘Manifest Destiny’ thinking that Ice War had, in effortless fashion, created a sound that so many ‘retro’ heavy metal bands can only indicate with production techniques. Whereas a band like High Spirits sounds like a purposefully devolved power/speed metal band at their most traditional, Ice War bring an authentic street fightin’ sort of experience that reads a step more timelessly ‘heavy metal’ than most comparable acts. It isn’t fair to describe Capitalicide‘s slightly stoned vocal affect as subdued but, ‘Manifest Destiny’ in motion absolutely invokes the thud of an ancient impromptu NWOBHM band’s first set of 7″ singles. There is a flaccid sort of yearning in the vocal performance that I found off-putting initially and then endearing as I returned to the album for several more listens. I can confidently recommend this second Ice War album. I was sure to give it almost an extra month of spins to see how it held up before a final verdict. It surely holds up and deserves a moderately high recommendation.
We’ve got the might. 4.0/5.0
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