IconsFormed in 2009 to pay homage to the glory days of death metal, and even gigging as a virtual covers band, it seems that Icons Of Brutality’s aspirations were quite modest. Following a couple of line-up changes though, the Dutchmen began plotting their own path with some original material. Come the end of 2011 and the band holed up to record this, their debut album. How it took so long to be released, I can’t say, but Germany’s Cyclone Temple evidently thought it better late than never to pick up and distribute. In their words, ‘influenced by several old school DM gods like Bolt Thrower, Vader, Dismember etc… “Between Glory and Despair” will crush and conquer the world in 2013!’ Bold words indeed but there’s no mention of Vital Remains, whose last album must surely have inspired the rather peculiar band name??? Anyway…

‘Just Let Them Burn’ sets the scene rapidly, as you might expect. First comes some grinding (of the blasting variety), and then bouncy Swedeath which incorporates a brief, disorderly solo. The dialogue announcing the execution of Queen Mary and Prince Philip on the grounds of heresy is a memorable touch as it becomes part of the opening track’s fabric. Initial impressions remind me a bit of Paganizer’s ‘Promoting Total Death’, only with a slightly less orthodox edge. Although I haven’t heard that album in a while – it being in a different country from myself – there seems to be a similar mix of dry guitars and crunching bass. This aspect alone is sure to make IOB a popular proposition amongst followers of Rogga Johansson. Along those lines, it also reminds me a little of Zombified’s recent effort. Where IOB differs from these two bands is in its penchant for short, snappy numbers. At a little over two minutes, the opener is gone almost before it’s started. And subsequent tracks like ‘Between Glory and Despair’ and ‘Accompanied by Attrition’ also fly past with nods to Grave, Dismember and Bolt Thrower; ranging from slow and heavy to groovy and fast, with a beaming solo in the former and some belligerent double-bass work in the latter standing out.

‘Icons of Brutality’ is the second-longest track of the album at a little over four minutes. Here things start out with a fast, punky run on the bass and drums, heralding the party anthem of the album. As it pans out, a spazzy solo and wailing mid-section segue into some nice fast harmonic riffs, which are punctuated by abrasive blasts of heaviness. ‘Built to Grind’ is more of a slow-burner than its title might suggest, and sees the vocalist come across like one of those rowdies who spends all his time in the local park drinking special brew. The bluesy solo adds momentarily to the atmosphere of vomit breath and piss-soaked trousers. In stark contrast, ‘Unleashed by the Carnifex’ evokes the executioner of Rome. A familiar quote from John Rambo kicks off his three minute appearance. As well as boasting fine double-bass blasting and towering riffs, this track also has a slow, atmospheric bridge and a strangely ponderous solo. Although IOB’s blueprint has very clear reference points, features like this one add something a little different and maybe unexpected. At core though, those references are the the law, as ‘Right Leg Solution'(???) underlines with its combination of d-beat speed and groovy swagger.

Clocking in at a hefty five minutes, album closer ‘Battalion 666’ is the symbolic barnstormer. Featuring vocals which go far more squelchy and porcine than before, and a main heavy riff which reminds me of… something I frustratingly can’t place… the record goes out in blustering fashion. In a way, that word ‘bluster’ embodies both the up and down sides of ‘Between Glory and Despair’. On one hand, it’s positive to have an album of short tracks which clatter enjoyably by. The consequence of this, however, is that few really imprint themselves on the memory in a significant way. It’s a fun album, no question. But one which I would personally categorise as decent rather than great.

(7/10 Jamie Wilson)