Release Date: May 4, 2018
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Over the course of three albums prior to Beyondless, Iceage have proven to be surprisingly chameleonic and yet totally unmistakable. They were immediately and simply tagged as "punk" on debut album New Brigade, but those restraints were very much tested on follow up You're Nothing, and were utterly obliterated on their third, Plowing Into The Field Of Love, an album that translated their ever-present ferocity and passion into something grandiose and indefinable. Nevertheless, their ramshackle rock, or "high octane sloppiness" as they call it, stamped their own particular brand on each of their songs, no matter how diverse - album three felt like the true Iceage.
Iceage's triumphant, glorious new record Beyondless is a luxurious, decadent splodge of punk that pushes at the confines of their listeners' hitherto unexplored psychic impulses. Sure, there's Bad Seeds cabaret, Gun Club fervour and a wretched, Pogues-y reek of freezing toilets in a horrible bar somewhere from Copenhagen to infinity. But, as Iceage are wont to do, there is a cumulative swelling of influences to where the band seem on the brink of a tipping point.
The fourth album by Danish punk upstarts Iceage is a study in sonic evolution, from the abrasive chaos of their debut to their more thoughtful 2018 incarnation. Their progression has been impressive, hopefully staving off the divisive nature that comes with changing direction; sharp turns are likely to perturb subsections of fans, but here the rudder was adjusted early enough that longtime admirers might have seen it coming since album two. Over time, space that has been carved out of the songwriting has given way to the overall density of the lyrical content, meaning that while the delivery might not be as urgent on Beyondless, it lands with a new degree of clarity.
Aren't punks supposed to look at flowers and hate them? Not Iceage, it seems, who performed recently in Tokyo subsumed by flowers of every hue. Electric blue, royal red, magenta, periwinkle. Observing the Danish rock band in this breathtaking setting on Instagram, I imagined a funeral. The botanical barrage was, it turned out, an installation by the artist Makoto Azuma, famous for sending a bonsai into space.
However, the use of the term "side-project" doesn't feel particularly right here, especially when you take into consideration the profound and undoubtable influence that the two Marching Church (which also features other Iceage band members) albums have had on the new Iceage album, Beyondless. As Elias himself told us back in 2016: "I think both of these projects can co-exist without either of them having to be reduced to a mere "side-project," he said. "In a way, they have become a power to enable each other, as when one well is drained, the other will be there, filled to the brim with new waters.
Across three albums, Denmark's Iceage have been increasingly impressive, ambitious and beguiling. Once or twice the crystal glow of the genuinely special has been visible in the distance for them, though they've always chosen a twisted route to reach it and ended up happily lost on the journey instead. Beyondless, their lush, bewitching fourth album, is a record that ignores those side-streets and alleyways.
Iceage have, if ‘Beyondless’ is any marker, spent the last four years expanding their palette. The Copenhagen band who first introduced themselves in 2010 as stormy punks are still present somewhere in their fourth album, but now they’re more ambitious, more open to something new. Where 2014’s ‘Plowing Into The Field Of Love’ subtly introduced brass and piano to the likes of the downcast drama of ‘Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled’, their latest puts those ideas of instrumentation front and centre.
"I can't stop killing, and we'll never stop killing and we shouldn't stop killing," Iceage's Elias Bender Rønnenfelt snarls on the machine-gun opener to their fourth album. It's a welcome battle-cry from a band who we've been without for too long. The band formed of teenage angst in 2008, and the last ten years have seen the four Danes defy genre, delight critics, and rattle more than a few skeletons across three acclaimed albums.
There's a word in Spanish culture to describe the overwhelming sensation of intensity that comes from great art, "a mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained" as Federico García Lorca describes it. They call it duende and it is a sensation that many artists spend their whole lives attempting to capture. It also appears to be a driving inspiration for the music of Iceage.
Iceage are getting crotchety in their old-ish age. Now in their late twenties, the one-time punk-rock prodigies move beyond the churn and clang of their first three albums to push themselves in new directions on Beyondless, their fourth LP. It's just such a dour listen. Not all of it. The Danish ….
Rating: NNNN There's been a certain thrill in following Danish punks Iceage from their first appearance in 2010 as a chaotic band of teens and seeing how they've harnessed their energy and momentum with each successive album. The biggest expansion of their sound came on their last album, 2014's Plowing Into The Field Of Love, in which they pushed their post-punk into dark, harrowing places. Beyondless, the band's fourth, is a refinement of that brooding intensity.
For all the lazy chatter about 'the death of rock', outsider guitar music is still thriving in the shadows. Sure, the Top Ten of late may look devoid of six-string slingers, but there's still a healthy scene fueled by feedback, battered books, and misfits with great hair. Helping keep the torch burning this past decade has been Iceage, a group of Danish record-obsessed schoolfriends who've been impressing fans and critics since day one with their ever-evolving brand of punk rock.
Iceage have always been a prospect most enigmatic; they rarely give interviews, they release albums with esoteric cover art, and they communicate with their fans solely through music. The band are childhood friends, and to outsiders they can seem like an impenetrable gang, lurking in the shadows of all that is good and true. There's much variety between the riotous (and often half-baked) malignance of their first two albums, The New Brigade and You're Nothing, and their more fully realised third album, 2014's Plowing Into The Field Of Love, but their music always has recurring themes and remains hard to decipher.