Having had a break out year following the release of their debut record The Language of Injury, 2019 was certainly the year of Ithaca.
With numerous tours and festival appearances under their belt, after a bumpy start as a band, which saw delays to the release of the bands record, they are now going at things full throttle.
We caught up with vocalist Djamila Azzouz to talk about taking a personal approach to the record, its unexpected success and what is on the horizon for the band.
WHEN Ithaca vocalist Djamila Azzouz answered an online advert to join a band in 2012 she could have never have predicted where that journey would have taken her.
In 2019 the five-piece really established themselves as one of the UK’s most exciting metal bands with the release of their debut record The Language of Injury.
As Ithaca started to find their feet as a band, influences like Dillinger Escape Plan and Botch were obvious for all to see, but as the band honed their sound, which was is an amalgamation of sounds including emo, folk, grindcore, dream pop, black metal and hip hop all leaking into the quintet’s influences.
And now with a debut release, which gained much critical acclaim, the landscape has completely changed for Azzouz and co.
“It’s been pretty mind blowing going from pretty much playing no live shows for two years to touring pretty much constantly this year,” Azzouz tells An Insight.
“And of course, it’s wonderful to see so many people enjoying and relating to this album.
“Writing the album was such a deeply intense process for us, we’re really just happy that anyone cares about it.”
Since the release of the record through Holy Roar Records, Ithaca has been praised for their all inclusive approach to metal and how Azzouz herself has openly spoken about what it is like being a woman in the metal scene.
This being said, and with the level of acclaim that has come their way, Ithaca’s first foray into full-length territory was a very introspective experience for the vocalist, who said she was writing from a place of personal experience.
She added: “I didn’t write the lyrics from any perspective other than my own and to be honest, I gave very little thought to how other people would understand them.
“The lyrical content is deeply personal. Despite the cliche, the subjects I wrote about were things that I really needed to expel from my own brain.
“I guess on the other hand, I’ve never wanted to write a concept album either, ever.
“I don’t want to tell people what our songs are about and that style of writing has never appealed to me.
“ I love that the songs mean different things to different people and that they’re relatable in different ways.
“I’ve had some really wonderful feedback from fans on what they think certain lyrics are about or how it makes them feel.”
Despite going through personal struggles to not just write the record, but having to silently sit on it for a number of months, Ithaca have come out the other side all guns blazing, getting acclaim from the media and fans a like.
Part of this has been Azzouz’s outspoken nature, which for many metal fans has come as a breath of fresh air.
“I do know that a lot of people who like our music share our morals and ethics which is fantastic,” Azzouz continues.
“But I’m not sure if we’ve gained any fans as a direct result of us being so outspoken.
“If that is the case then it can only be a good thing. Gatekeeping within metal and hardcore is almost always a symptom of sexism and racism, so we don’t tend to attract those sorts of people as fans anyway. They can fuck off.”
Ithaca join a string of bands in the UK like Svalbard, Venom Prison and Dawn Ray’d who are breaking the metal stereotypes and are changing perspectives in the metal scene.
Gatekeeping within metal and hardcore is almost always a symptom of sexism and racism
However, as the Ithaca vocalist mentioned there is still symptoms of sexism, misogyny and racism within the metal world, and she believes there is still a long way to go until this is completely stamped out.
Azzouz adds: “I’m glad that bands are being given a platform to express themselves because they’re genuinely great people who also make fucking great music and they also have really important messages too.
“I do think things are changing for the better, but sometimes it’s hard to be optimistic with our current political climate.
“The important thing is that we keep fighting for acceptance and equality.”
With 2019 certainly being a break out year for Ithaca there was a lot to look back on and be proud of and it means there is so much to look forward to in the year ahead.
When asked what some her highlights of the year past were Azzouz added: “I think our show with Bleeding Through at the Underworld stands out to me – because they’re one of my favourite bands of all time and I cried like a baby.
“Also playing ArcTanGent. Seeing a full to bursting tent for us at 1pm on the first day of the festival and seeing everyone pulling out their own confetti canons.”