Lo-fi vibes and orphaned transmissions are tuned-in and then rebroadcast through the aether on Ice Dragon’s seventh long-player, ‘Born a Heavy Morning.’ Seemingly content to move even further from the psych-inflected metal of the band’s peerless doom trilogy, the overall tone of ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ has more in common with last year’s tripped-out ‘Dream Dragon’, but musically lies somewhere between the melancholic folk of the “Season of Decay” single and the moody meditations of ‘The Soul’s Midnight’ EP. Add to that blend heavy and unlikely doses of jangle-pop and whimsy and you might have an inclination of what to expect this time around. AM radio channeled through busted-up, acid-damaged transistors never sounded so good.
Ice Dragon has been uncoiling and experimenting with their sound essentially since their inception, but 2012 marked a huge leap into unexplored territories for the band in regards to recorded output. It’s their collective ability to indulge whims and tread new paths all the while maintaining the semblance of cohesion and consistency that really separates Ice Dragon from the horde.
With ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ the band is seemingly preoccupied with early-to-mid 60’s psych-pop, especially on the first half of the release. The album’s sunny—by way of The Monkees or The Turtles—opener, “Wakin’ Up”, is a fleeting and fanciful tune that could easily have been released by any of the acts associated with 60’s revivalist collective the Elephant 6 Recording Co. “In Which a Man Rises, Washes, and Eats Before Work”, the first of four dreamy and hazy soundscape interludes, reinforces the idea of having a “heavy morning”. “We’ll Go on a Trip, You and I”, initially sounds like the bouncy, whimsical companion piece to the opening track, but the band filters the tune through a sheet of blotter, the results of which seem to bridge the incomprehensible gap between Syd Barrett’s ‘The Madcap Laughs’ and ‘Yerself is Steam’ era Mercury Rev.
While ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ may have its fair share of blissed-out tunes the album isn't all incense and peppermints. “The Past Plus the Future is Present”, arguably one of the album’s highlights, is a brooding, otherworldly voyage where siren-like guitars wail and moan over a thick bassline for what remotely sounds like, musically, an unearthed Portishead demo. “We are the Hopeless’, with its Birthday Party-like guitar riff and Ron’s baritone Nick Cave croon, echoes the post-punk and goth-rock leanings of the band’s alter-ego, Slow Heart. Adding to the eclectic nature of “Born a Heavy Morning” is the melancholic blues of the outstanding ninth track, “Square Triangle”. Here Ice Dragon layers slide guitar beautifully over a morose, downtrodden groove. Closing out the album is “(I Will) Watch My Hair Grow”, a moving, somber track that captures the dysphoria of a morning comedown.
After Ice Dragon’s appearance at the Scion Rock Fest this past June I was expecting the band’s predilection for doom to be reinvigorated and for ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ to be, well…heavy as fuck. Despite the lack of “heaviness”, ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ is the band’s trippiest and most diverse album to date and the perfect way to cap off a summer. Another killer, eclectic release from the ever-evolving Ice Dragon. Also notable is that this is the band’s first release to be issued on CD courtesy of Navalorama Records.
Words: Steve Miller