Lento have changed in their four years away, and Icon sees them adopt a sharper, more intricate guise than before. The band dip into sludgy territory but don’t wallow in it, swapping frequently for staccato chug guitar or gloomy patches of quiet, with half of the album’s tracks wrapped up in four minutes or less. In all, the album seems to draw more from metal’s quick-shifting structures and heavy rhythmic emphasis than it does from drone’s guttural, zoned-out monotony.
This shift in sound is very present in the album’s production – the drums are snappier, stripped of their authoritative position at the forefront of the mix and pushed back, while the guitars have been edged closer to the center. It leaves Icon sounding very direct, and while Lento’s sound doesn’t swamp and embrace as it used to, this down-the-middle gut-punch can be equally as satisfying. Take “Least” for example: dizzied palm-muting flies into stretches of resonant dissonance and quickly back again, caught in a frantic game of capture and release that ends with feedback spilling out of the gaps.
And then it’s straight into “Dyad” before silence can settle in. There’s no gradual fade-out during which to soak the experience up – Lento slam the next track down instantly, only leaving time for reflection during the album’s warm ambient passages (these are intelligently placed – bookending the album with floaty, meditative states, as well as providing an extended breather around the halfway mark).
Only occasionally do Lento descend into generic metal jams that feel like the product of rehearsal room indulgence. “Hymen” is the most prominent culprit, cycling through stale guitar lines that feel strung carelessly together. For the most part though, Icon manages to effectively slot this newfound metallic edge in with the Lento of old, transforming their sprawling, gritty panorama into an abrupt, violent thump.