Ice

Under the Skin

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    6
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Right from the opening notes, it's pretty clear who's in Ice and what they're up to. The music has the same combination of aggressive guitar, dry, steady beats, cryptic vocals, and more that made up so much of Martin and Broadrick's music in the early '90s. Even the artwork -- fetuses, guns, and mirror images -- and the length of the album (nearly a full CD's worth) all make it clear who is involved. But if there are no outright surprises on Under the Skin for those well-steeped in Martin and Broadrick and company's anti-commercial aesthetic, it's still a treat for said listeners, if not something many who weren't already fans would tolerate. God's Consumed is the best immediate comparison point for Under the Skin, though certainly Godflesh at their most distanced but vicious, as on "Pure II," also has an understandable influence. Martin's inimitable singing approach -- howled vocals then heavily and totally echoed into the oblivion -- defines the songs as much as Broadrick's blasting feedback, but credit as well to the Cochrane/Jobbagy rhythm section, who pound and grind with equally obsessive focus. Martin's sax work crops up on a number of tracks as well, his free jazz love finding some truly extreme places to hang out in. There are some moments where the band lives up to its name and chills down dramatically: "Out of Focus," which emphasizes the silence between the beats and sometimes soft (!) guitar chimes as much as the music itself, and, to a lesser extent, "Implosion," with moaning electronic howls and drones chasing more tenor sax parts around the mix. Otherwise, it's pretty much one massive grind and bash after another, manna from heaven for believers and pure torture for most everyone else.

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