“Affection is just an affectation.”
Consider the above aphorism, bestowed upon us by Ithaca’s lead vocalist Djamila Azzouz in the closing peals of “Impulse Crush,” a thesis of sorts for The Language of Injury, the hardcore upstarts’ bruising, beguiling debut LP. Yes, the London band makes overture after sweeping romantic overture throughout these ten tracks, crossing-up mosh-ready fare with melancholic ambient passages, weeping guitars, and virtuosic vocal harmonies; their lyrics predominantly center around uplifting themes of love, acceptance, and resilience. Only by diving deep into the The Language of Injury, with all its overhanging dread and violent twists and turns, do we discover the true praxis driving Ithaca’s bleeding-heart aesthetic: a commitment to radical emotional honesty and self-sufficiency, rather than the misguided, if well-intentioned, “radical softness” du jour.
Which brings us to the five-piece’s main conceit on this LP: offering blissful, shoegaze-y respite from the din — that sweet, familiar swoon, again and again — only to drop us back into hell a few agonizing moments later. Though Ithaca reprise this pattern several times over the course of the record, their game-plan rarely scans as predictable, thanks to the winding, amorphous arrangements in which they’re situated; “CLSR” and “Slow Negative Order” channel blackened, proggy post-metal à la Deafheaven and the Ocean, and grunge rears its heavy-leaded head on phenomenal closer “Glint.” The end result is a gorgeous, gargantuan record that flips hardcore sentimentalism on its head — not for the sake of novelty, but of necessity.