Icon for Hire’s new album opens with lead singer Ariel Bloomer scream-singing that she isn’t “Brittle.” This rejection of fragility, accompanied by a dynamic electronic beat, is our introduction to Bloomer’s persona of an unbreakable rockstar- a persona that, within that same opening song, seems to come undone. Soon after the emotionally forceful chorus of “Brittle”, the music slows down as Bloomer reminds herself to “keep breathing”, to not “lose focus” and that she is “not a diagnosis”.
In “ Brittle”- A microcosm of the album as a whole- Bloomer seems caught between this state of denial and honesty about her mental health and this conflict creates the tension that drives the album both lyrically and sonically; the album vacillates between sarcastic responses to stereotypes about mental health backed by harsh guitar solo, and slower moments reminiscent of the self talk portion of a therapy session.
Bloomer’s relationship with herself is not the only conflict that exists in this album; Icon for Hire also seems to be battling against their past identity as a band weighed down by restrictive record labels (something Ariel openly sings about in the song Seeds) while still striving to create something that sounds fresh. It’s a delicate balancing act, but they pull it off well.
This may have a little something to do with who they take inspiration from; Bloomer has stated many times before on her social media and Youtube channel that Linkin park has been a major influence on her music- which makes sense considering Icon for Hire released their breakout album, Scripted, at a time when Linkin park very much dominated the radio. Indeed, Icon for Hire are a product of that bygone era when rap, electronic, and rock were seamlessly blended, and you can hear it in the tracks on this album that seem to harken back to that time with such flippant, angst filled lyrics as “Bless your little black heart,” (Waste my haste) or “I make friends with all my demons” (Enemies).
For the most part, with Amorphous Icon For Hire stays within their comfort zone, the album consisting mostly of the empowering cinematic rock songs(Last One Standing, Sticks and Stones, Curse or Cure, Warrior) and self reflexive piano ballads (Thirteen, Only Be a Story) that have come to be known as the band’s signature. The few songs where Icon For Hire does dare to get a little more experimental- like two songs sung entirely in rap that feels slightly forced(Panic Attacks, Impossibles and Obstacles) or one song which has the airy, overproduced vibe of a rejected pop song (Background Sad)- are some of the weakest on the album. But on the whole what makes this album work is the sincerity with which Bloomer delivers even the most cliche of lines. And, not to get overly sentimental here, but as someone who listened to a lot of icon for Hire and Linkin Park in my middle school years, I like to think of Ariel Bloomer’s commitment to singing candidly about mental health as a continuation of Chester Bennington’s legacy- a legacy that I, for one, am excited to see Icon for Hire expand upon in the future.
Total score: 8/10
Best songs: Brittle, Enemies, Last One Standing, Waste my Hate, Sticks and stones, Only Be a Story.
Listen to the Album here: