As a modern echo of the rock & roll terror that was inspired by Black Flag and the Stooges, the Icarus Line offered a screaming wake-up call to the West Coast underground in the late '90s. Coming together following the demise of a handful of aggro-punk projects in their Los Angeles homes, singer Joe Cardamone, bassist Lance Arnao, and guitarists Alvin DeGuzman and Aaron North went through several different drummers before finding Jeff Watson a year after their formation. Never performing without their signature uniforms (black shirts and pants with thin, red ties), the band's self-given nickname, Red and Black Attack, was a reference to their stunning live performances, which more often than not ended in bursts of chaotic destruction.
In the musical vein of the Murder City Devils or At the Drive-In, the Icarus Line were first brought to a national audience by being added to a tour of goth underground legends Ink & Dagger before anyone in the band was 20 years old. Building a fan base through constant tours of the West Coast and the release of a handful of singles with L.A.'s street punk label Hellcat and L.A. upstart Buddyhead, the combination of the band's manic live show with their dubious reputation gave them a deafening national buzz. After their New American Dream EP, the Icarus Line drew the attention of California's Crank! Records. Crank!'s popularizing run with '90s emo bands Mineral and Boys Life made the Icarus Line the black sheep of the Crank! catalog, but the label funded the band's debut full-length, Mono, and slated it for an early spring release in 2001.
The recording, which was originally going to be engineered and produced by indie heavyweight Mark Trombino, was held in limbo due to creative differences between Trombino and the band, and halfway through the recording process, Trombino left the project, to be replaced by Alex Newport (At the Drive-In, Knapsack, Godheadsilo, Sepultura). With Mono completed and released in May 2001, the band embarked on a series of grueling and wide-ranging tours. The gigs definitely helped solidify the band's rep, especially one in Austin at the 2002 South by Southwest where guitarist North busted into a display case to "liberate" Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar. However, crappy distribution of Mono was becoming a big issue. Enter Buddyhead. Known primarily as an Internet clearing house for cynical music gossip and hilariously mean pranks, the outfit was also a record label of sorts.
Buddyhead reissued Mono in April 2003, generating more critical acclaim and a bigger audience for the Line in the process. The group next signed with V2 and began work on their second full-length. When Penance Soiree appeared in May 2004, it featured a reconfigured rhythm section. Former Ink & Dagger bassist Don Devore had replaced Arnao, and Jeff Watson -- who'd momentarily disappeared from the lineup -- had returned to the fold. But after the release, the band's guitarist, Aaron North, left to join Nine Inch Nails, and the rest of the band took a break from the public eye. In 2007, the Icarus Line announced that they would be returning to play some shows with the Jesus and Mary Chain and also released Black Lives at the Golden Coast. Sessions for that record -- which largely took place at L.A.'s Sunset Sound -- featured DeGuzman on bass and Devore on guitar, before the latter musician left the band, just prior to the album being issued.
By the time of Wildlife, their 2011-released follow-up, founding member Cardamone had taken responsibility for the production, engineering, and mixing of much of the band's material, and this resulted in a raw and somewhat unpolished record. The year 2012 brought a world tour, for which Arnao returned and Watson was replaced by Londoner Ben Hallett. This revised rhythm section featured on that year's Live in London and was also retained for both 2013's Slave Vows and the following year's companion EP, Avowed Slavery. ~ Nate Cavalieri, Rovi