This is a band that likes instrumentals more than most loud rock bands of their era but, even for a band that likes instrumentals, I’d say it’s a bold move to lead off your second album (the album that is almost always “difficult” for bands of this era) with a track that takes over 2 and a half minutes for the vocals to kick in. I like it.
It’s definitely got that “difficult 2nd album” vibe though, at least a little bit. Things are grungier (sonically and not in terms of genre) and the songs are not as catchy. There are new musical ideas, or perhaps older ideas pushed to the fore that were in the background before. It feels like there’s been some kind of “growth” is what I’m saying. But, unlike most of those “difficult 2nd albums,” the growth here feels organic and recognizable as the band on Icky Mettle.
More importantly, the same energy is here, as is on the debut. And the songs remain interesting, both musically and lyrically. One thing you learn from seeing AOL live, if you didn’t know from listening, is that their riffs can be quite complicated. (For some reason I never heard that in their music. Or didn’t hear it much compared to say, the math rock I listen to from this time. But they write some knotty riffs.) And though I’m not always on board with Bachmann’s lyrics I do think he’s an above-average lyricist, especially for this style of music. He can be a little obscure sometimes, and sometimes he can be a little too obvious or lazy. But, most of the time, his lyrics are above average.
Icky Mettle is a pretty great record. And, like most second albums, this isn’t up to that (rather incredible) standard. The songs, for one, are just not as good. (Typical for a 2nd album.) But it’s still a good record which exemplifies why they are a pretty great band.