Ice Age – Waves Of Loss And Power

Ice Age – Waves Of Loss And Power

Ice Age was formed on Long Island, New York in 1991 by college buddies Josh Pincus (vocals & keys) and Jimmy Pappas (guitars). Originally an instrumental outfit, with the addition of drummer Hal Aponte and bassist Arron DiCesare, the band made the move to vocally oriented songwriting and were eventually picked up by one of the major prog labels of the late nineties, Magna Carta. Their first two albums, The Great Divide (1999) and Liberation (2001), caught my attention not only for the aggressive prog metal attack, but for how they managed to balance that approach with great melodies, courtesy of Pincus’ powerful vocals. Ice Age was a band to be reckoned with: compositionally smart, intelligent lyrics, and a sound that never wore its influences on its collective sleeve. Rush, Queensrÿche, Kansas and Styx were all thrown into the stew pot, but what came out was undeniably Ice Age.

Bassist Doug Odell joined the band just after the release of Liberation, touring the new album. In 2004, the band released two EPs, which abandoned progressive metal for a more song-oriented approach, and changed their name to Soulfractured. Subsequently, the band broke up, but remained in contact over the years, continuing to make music for their own enjoyment. As it became evident that there was still more to say, the band began work on what would become the new album, Waves of Loss and Power.

It’s hard to believe that 22 years have passed. Picking up right where they left off, the band sounds as if no time at all has passed between the sophomore effort and Waves of Loss and Power. Opening with The Needle’s Eye, the song is a powerful punch in the face which grabs your attention and never lets up. Josh Pincus dominates the tune with a vocal that has lost none of its edge, alternating between a lone voice and layered vocals for emphasis. Taking on the divisive political climate, it can be applicable to any number of world situations: “Watching the madman as he spins his lies/Where kings are born the truth must die/All the lemmings lined up in a row”. Dual guitar and bass riffs navigate ever-shifting time signatures with formidable chops. Pincus’ keyboards remain in the background for most of the song, adding color, while Pappas’ guitars crunch and grind through the song with the aid of Aponte’s precise drumming. Not until later in the song does Pincus come to the fore, offering a couple of brief solos.

Riverflow begins with a nice acoustic piano introduction, recalling a debt to Tony Banks. Quickly, though, layers of electric guitar leads take over. This time, in place of The Needle’s Eye gut punch, melodicism is paramount, Pincus and Pappas blending beautifully. The guitar sounds on this album are generally of superior tonal quality but are particularly astounding on Riverflow. Covering everything from crunchy to percussive to soaringly melodic, the tiers of guitars never muddy up the sonics. The tune is richly detailed with emphasis on the composition.

Perpetual Child, Part II: Forever is the first of two epics which are continuations of songs from the first couple albums. Make no mistake – these are not reprises of the original tunes, rather they carry the spirit of their predecessors forward. Once more, Pincus’ vocals shine, a commanding presence while the tune itself veers between light and darkness. In this sequel, the lyrics reference time catching up with you (“The future becomes the present day”) and the attendant consequences (“Look in the mirror, the child has grown/You can’t turn away from time/Still you chase your innocence in rhymes”). Not a minute of the song’s nearly fifteen minutes is wasted. New ideas in both concept and execution are rife, yet always cohesive, each piece fitting the next as neatly as a jigsaw puzzle. The song begins with a heavier approach, as if admonishing the Child from 1999, but the warmth and beauty of the tune embrace that same child with a loving hug.

The next two songs hearken back to the Soulfractured period in that they are short and song-oriented, but with mixed results. All My Years is a radio-friendly tune which, while not bad, is generic and suffers in comparison to the other songs on the album. It is catchy if a tad bland, just not a comfortable fit. Float Away, on the other hand, is much truer to the band’s identity. Like Rush, who never dumbed-down for a single, Float Away shows off the band’s strengths in a bite-sized chunk. Pappas’ guitar solo in particular impresses.

The final two songs that end the album are To Say Goodbye, Part IV: Remembrance and Part V: Water Child. Together clocking in at over seventeen minutes, they comprise the best moments on the record. Remembrance is solo piano piece with a beautiful chord progression. It almost sounds like the overture to a Broadway show in that it packs a number of ideas in a short amount of time. It is a perfect palate cleanser for Water Child. Picking up with a continuation of the piano piece, the song builds quickly, as if in a hurry to show what it is capable of. A continuation of songs that appeared on both The Great Divide and Liberation, the band wisely allows the keys to lead the song, never stepping on the vocal or the piano. That said, listen to how Pappas’ riffs and chords shape the song, providing the lines within which the other instruments colour. Not until halfway through does the guitar assert itself, with a nicely constructed solo which builds without becoming frantic. Pappas is not a shredder for the sake of flash; he always plays in service to the song, unlike most of his prog metal peers. These guys know how to construct an epic, varying the mood, tempo and instrumentation to maximum effect. The layered vocal lines at the end of the song are the icing on an already delicious cake, climactic and uplifting.

This is for sure is a welcome return for Ice Age. The band have managed to defy the years, sounding as good – if not better – than before. Three albums in twenty-five years is not exactly prodigious output. Still, it’s hard to complain when the product is of this quality. Let’s hope this is not the band’s final statement.

01. The Needle’s Eye (7:05)
02. Riverflow (10:49)
03. Perpetual Child, Part II: Forever (14:36)
04. Together Now (8:01)
05. All My Years (4:36)
06. Float Away (4:31)
07. To Say Goodbye, Part IV: Remembrance (2:31)
08. To Say Goodbye, Part V: Water Child (14:45)

Total Time – 66:54

Josh Pincus – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Jimmy Pappas – Guitars
Doug Odell – Bass
Hal Aponte – Drums, Percussion

Record Label: Sensory Records
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 10th March 2023

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