Music

Danish Punk Band Iceage Up the Ante on 'Beyondless'

Photo: Steve Gullick

On Beyondless, Iceage feels as if they've arrived and the stage is all theirs.

Beyondless
Iceage

Matador

4 May 2018

Formed in 2008, when the four members were still in their teens, Danish band Iceage have slowly been climbing the ladder of success in the indie rock scene. With a flair for the dramatic, reminiscent of the Bad Seeds and a snarling streak of mischief curling in under the scene, they make music that's grand and cinematic; at times its' sharp edges demand your attention and shake you to the core, though just as often they can subtly mesmerize you into a gentle lull.

Despite flying a bit under the radar from a press standpoint, Iceage have built a steady following. Their tours bring them stellar headlining spots both here in the U.S. and most certainly abroad, where the chilly waves emanated by the post-punk genre have traditionally always been greeted with a bit more enthusiasm. Interestingly, the band has also caught the attention of two of the biggest outsider icons in rock and roll: Richard Hell, who penned a glowing essay about the band in which he compared them to none other than Charles Baudelaire, and Iggy Pop, who mentioned Iceage as one of the few punk bands around who "sound really dangerous".

This month, Iceage have returned to the scene with great fanfare. Their latest release, Beyondless, has been hailed as somewhat of a breakthrough in that the direction in which the band has taken their sound has become a little more accessible and brightened in areas where it had typically been cordoned off. There are horn breaks and whirling strings added high into the mix while a bevy of added instrumentation muscles up the frenetic approach the band has long taken as a mantra.

Lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt proves a commanding front man and abstract lyricist. On Beyondless, his voice signifies purpose and his narrative approach has become even more cryptic despite the more approachable sonic palette. "Thieves Like Us", he remarks in the track of the same name, "Postulate we must / In echo chambers of fermented ethanol." He could be poking gentle fun at his chosen profession or perhaps making a larger statement on the fractured political and religious discourse that has plagued society for ages. Either interpretation fits.

Elsewhere, on the rollicking "Plead the Fifth", Rønnenfelt proves he's capable of pulling off the grotesque to make a pointed statement: "A great pretender, corseted in gilded halls / Line 'em up in the toilet stalls / STD's on the tip of my tongue." Perhaps not the most elegantly worded turn of phrase, but a remarkable one, nevertheless.

At times, it's difficult to comprehend if Iceage's songs are grand declarations or more simply just exercises in musical might. Songs like "Pain Killer" (a killer duet with Sky Ferreira), "Under the Sun", and "Showtime" (where Rønnenfelt again pokes a bit of fun at the celebrity and admiration afforded to those in his position) chug along nicely with bombastic energy and genuine sonic feeling. These are songs that pack enough punch for more mainstream audiences, but still traffic enough in the offbeat to satisfy longtime fans. And with the band's stock continuously rising, this is a delicate balance that the band will likely have to strike as their career marches forward.

With their prior work, Iceage have proven themselves worthy rock and roll purveyors. What follows on Beyondless, are the combined senses of accomplishment and satisfaction. They've made a lot of music in a short period of time, a recipe that often inflicts chaos and confusion. This time, Iceage feels as if they've arrived and the stage is all theirs. Here's hoping for a continued pushing of the boundaries and a challenging, yet rewarding future ahead.

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