February 16, 2013

Ice Dragon 2007 - 2013

Written by Craig Hayes.

Cover art by Adam Burke

I have hazy memories around my first encounter with the acid-fried, heavy rock trio Ice Dragon, and given the band's heady mystique, that fogginess is entirely fitting. In the end, how I discovered Ice Dragon matters little. The point is that I found them, and the rewards have been bountiful and enlightening.

The Boston, Massachusetts-based band are nothing if not prolific. Ice Dragon have released six full-length albums since 2007, along with splits, EPs and singles—all of which are available on their Bandcamp page for a name-your-price fee. The band's sound can be crudely characterized as doom, psych and stoner metal. Although, as with any of the bands you could compare Ice Dragon to (Black Sabbath, Namm, Sleep, Yob or Electric Wizard) it's not really those sonic tags but their distinctive alchemical combination that make them a band you should definitely investigate, if you've not had the pleasure already.

Ice Dragon's career thus far can be loosely broken into two distinct periods. Both blend smoky, lurching and forbidding elements, but one is underscored by brute strength while the other by more psychedelic enticements.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

A mix of red-eyed, lo-fi, steamrolling doom can be found on the band's 2007 self-titled debut, 2010's The Burl, the Earth, the Aether, 2011's The Sorrowful Sun and 2012's Tome of the Future Ancients full-lengths. These albums are perfect for fans of the early raw-edged works of Electric Wizard, spilling over with monolithic sludge and grunty, slow-baked blues. Intrepid journeys abound, with trips to the outer limits, rustic acoustic interludes, dives into magma-filled subterranean lairs, and endless howls into blizzards of tweaked-out density.

Ice Dragon's first four full-lengths are powerful albums—instinctual romps of distorted rawness. However, while there's plenty of percussive heaviness, stacks of lysergic space-rockin' churns, and a strong dose of retro metal to amplify the explosiveness of the band in full-swing, what really defines those albums is the sound of three guys, heads-down, jamming their hearts out. Of course, not every track on every album is solid gold, but each retains that same enthusiastic gritty spirit. An ambience and energy lingers long after the albums have finished.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Chapter two in Ice Dragon's tale arrived with 2012's Dream Dragon. While the band has always been psychedelically inclined, a look at the album’s list of additional instrumentation reads like a prog and psych fan’s dream come true. Aside from the expected guitar, bass and drums, there’s flute, organ, theremin, modular synth, harmonica, Mellotron, and hand drums, all of which are used extensively throughout.

Dream Dragon staked out a new path for Ice Dragon, one that deviated markedly from their previous work. Gossamer tracks like "Dreamliner", "Every Little Star", and the two-part "A Dragon's Dream" were replete with vintage folk and temperate psych-pop stylings that wouldn't seem out of place on Pink Floyd or Hawkwind's earliest works. But the band didn't forgo the heavy cosmic or doom rockers entirely, with "Maximum Trip" and "Bread of Thieves" bringing plenty of hallucinogenic garage rock 'n' roll.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

If Dream Dragon was a shock for fans, Ice Dragon didn’t leave it there. The band's third album for 2012, greyblackfalconhawk, saw another shift in sound. Drawing in windswept drones and stretched-out, viscous Americana, Ice Dragon combined a thrum and strum comparable to a latter-day Earth with its own cavernous fuzz. Tracks such as "todaythepain", "takeitallaway" and "ifnotforthispatheticheart" were some of Ice Dragon's most eccentric and creatively fearless, but while their droning undercurrents were a huge step beyond their earlier bruising doom, they were no less potent as artistic statements.

Ice Dragon finished off 2012 with Season of Decay, a two-track release that returned to the bucolic, though still retained echoes of psych-drone and vintage rock. However, the band's first release for 2013, The Soul's Midnight, brought the hefty psych riffs to the fore. "Understanding Ouroboros" and "The Soul's Midnight" were grimy, punchy, hard rockers, and Ice Dragon ended the four-track EP on the feedbacking crawl of "Winterland", which was 10 minutes of trippy, hollowed-out and ragged vibrations

When you encounter a band with such an extensive discography produced over such a short amount of time, the question of where to even begin looms large. The band don't make it easy. Every album has its own distinct charms, add to that a couple of excellent splits with Kroh and Fellwood you'll not want to miss, and you've got some work ahead of you.

Depending on where you start, you'll likely find a few mind-melting tangents and byways being explored that aren't there on the preceding or following albums, and that's the key to Ice Dragon's appeal. The band is constantly on the move, tumbling, plowing and soaring through endless peregrinations, with a magnetism both familiar and fresh.

Bassist Joe, guitarist Carter, and vocalist/drummer Ron provide an expedition guided by sounds weighty, ponderous, delicate and discreet. If you want a vicious, lo-fi doom-metal pummeling, it's all there. If you want sturdier, thickset and dirty Southern riff riots, you'll find those too. Or, if you simply want to bask in 70s prog and 60s psych, that's waiting for you in the spliff-laden brume as well.

Think of Ice Dragon's oeuvre so far as a free-for-all feast, one that you should be gorging yourselves on forthwith. You can be assured that you'll find rich, rough and riveting flavors to savor for a very long time.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

  1. Thanks for posting this. I made the purchase.

    1. can you buy cd somewhere?

    2. They have at least one CD available on the Bandcamp page. Else try asking them on their Facebook page (link is on the Bandcamp).