Condemned to the Breaking Wheel

I don’t know about the rest of ya’ll, but summer sure took its sweet ass time showing up ’round these parts. Yeah, it’s June now, and a lot of this country has been caught in the grips of an absolutely hellacious heat wave (sorry), but back when I had originally started listening to this release at the very end of April (as in, it was going to be May in a couple days), I woke up that morning to a coating of snow on my deck. Was it enough to actually be a physical impediment on my day? No. Was it enough to just be annoying to have to look at? You betcha. Here’s the thing, I’m actually one of those weirdos that really does love winter and everything that comes with it, truly! But winter around here is a long endeavor, one filled with no shortage of grey skies and biting, relentless northern winds. Suffice to say, after a while a change is very much needed.

But since climate change is most assuredly a thing (don’t @ us this is our podium), and apparently winter is just going to continue to drag on right up until now when Summer decides to just unload all its bullshit on us? We might as well still be able to acquire the kind of soundtrack fit for such barren, morose times, and goddamned if Canada’s (of course) Ischemic isn’t here to play ball.

Let’s start with the one red flag that might steer some folks away from Condemned to the Breaking Wheel: this is one of those weird in-between releases that could be called an EP given it’s 4-track length, but the total run time hits a shade over half an hour, which honestly? That’s more than enough if you’re dedicated to those 7-10-minute song lengths. You’re really asking a lot of humanity’s ever-shrinking attention spans to deal with that much Death Doom in one sitting. Let’s give some credit where it’s due – their last 4-track release (whatever you wanna call it), clocked in at over 50 friggin’ minutes, including the 22+ minute colossus “Scattering Garden.”

That’s a significant shave-down! And the results of the weight shed are actually pretty significant, with CTTBW presenting a much more focused effort than it’s self-titled predecessor, a point made very well on the title track opener which, despite its 9+ minutes, doesn’t feel nearly that long, treading along at a mighty Bolt Thrower-esque rumble and barreling head-first into battle with a low end-heavy attack befitting the track’s doomed, inescapable title – sounding at times akin to the likes of 1914 (before the orchestrations). Yeah, the band do throw some glacial doom breakdowns into the mix which grind things to a bit of a halt, but they pop up in spots that seem well thought-out and natural to the track’s progression, not just thrown willy-nilly to check a box. The results are both impressive, and oppressive.

For those of you new to the band, I gotta tell ya – in an ever-growing world of women-led Death Metal acts, vocalist Isabelle Tazbir needs to be recognized for the guttural, positively cavewoman performance she lays out here. She really is at the top of her game, her bellowing growls seething with absolute malice the entire way through and setting the tone for this bleak and cavernous affair. Where the opening track got things started leaning into the Death Metal half of their sound, “Tomb Fog” goes straight for the Doom sense of dread and misanthropy, and Tazbir’s vocals fit the vibe like a moth-eaten, cobwebbed glove. That said, it’s not all about the morose and macabre – this is a really well-balanced track, as are the whole of the album’s 4 tracks. The band have a real knack for knowing when to kick things into high gear with blasting fury, and when to kick the tank back into grinding, mid-paced destruction – often times (as is the case with this track) layering things nicely with atmospheric leads and accents, giving the band’s sound a ton of depth and fluidity.

Balance doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to go to the extremes of pacing, however. “Rust and Bones” stays pretty firmly at “midpaced” or below, but it does still find a way to vary up speed just enough to keep momentum from completely stalling out. Instead, it ends up being one of the album’s more crushing offerings, serving up body blow after body blow of caveman riffs that may not necessarily impress with dizzying technical prowess, but nevertheless leave you short of breath with the band’s relentless assault. Again, Tazbir’s onslaught of growling fury really leads the way, demanding your attention with heaving, monstrous energy. She’s like a damn Yeti laying waste to trees and raccoons and squirrels and whatever the hell else has the misfortune of being in her way, armed with a backing track to facilitate maximum destruction. It’s a fantastically brutal endeavor.

Ischemic is a fantastic young band with a lot of promise, led by a super talented young woman poised to make some waves in the scene. I look forward to seeing where this all progresses from here, but as it stand now Ischemic is well worth your time to check out. Keep this cold Northern shit coming, Canada.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
June 7th, 2024


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