Chilly review for Test Icicles

Mike Morrone

It is hard to imagine how word of mouth even worked without the Internet. Bands that are technologically savvy seem to create all their own breaks. The band Test Icicles has not only a website, but also a MySpace account that allows users to download songs. Using this as a base, word has traveled fast about the young trio from Great Britain, who have been compared favorably to The Blood Brothers. It also doesn’t hurt to have the British musical press touting your “next big thing” status with enough superlatives to dry their collective inkwells. But how is the music, you ask?

“For Screening Purposes Only” starts crassly both lyrically and sonically. “Your Biggest Mistake” features reckless cymbal crashes while a guitar screeches and scratches. Manic screams catapult the song, which has a playful, menacing pace. This is just one opinion, but it seems as if System of a Down decided to try thrash and hardcore rather than continuing to refine its alternative metal ethos. Follow-up “Pull the Lever” begins with aggressive bass, reminiscent of Gang of Four (but really what isn’t these days?). Once at the chorus, a layered spoken accompaniment joins the block party. Several songs, including this one, feature electronic twitches to heighten the dissonance and add an ominous element. Unfortunately, frontman Sam “Dangerr” Merrann does not have any vocal range, and he can barely sing. Some hardcore singers have the ability to sing, and use screams and shrieks to compliment their music. Merrann only has his scream, and a grating one at that.

After a curious interlude that makes one wonder from what corner of At The Drive-In’s world it crawled out of, “Boa vs Python” actually exhibits a modicum of catchiness, even though the shout-along chants do seem childish. It would fit in quite nicely as the generic soundtrack to a snowboarding game on PSP. The trio actually show some promise with songs such as “Circle, square, triangle.” Test Icicles’s formula is balanced, which is something that they could use in spades – it is certainly a high point. As a result this is a song made for movement and dancing, not unlike an alternate universe faint. It quickly goes back to lightning quick and corrosive sound, though. The record begins to sound much the same well before it should. This is a definite problem, since the album is fifteen tracks long.

The bottom line is that if you like this kind of music (fast!) and are willing to be patient, “For Screening Purposes Only” should be a worthwhile listen. If Test Icicles realize some of their limitations, they might even make a better second album, but this music is for a select few. What remains to be seen is if this is possible. Be careful, blokes, of the U.K. press; when words like “brilliant” are bandied about, people expect results.