Release Date: Feb 19, 2013
Record label: Matador
Let's hear it for the unruly punk youth of Copenhagen. The Danish hardcore kids in Iceage make an emotionally intense racket, with that rare mix of aggression and delicacy. Even on their raw 2011 debut, Iceage knew how to sculpt the noise into songs, but You're Nothing is a huge jump forward. Although the lyrics are mostly in English, singer-guitarist Elias Rønnenfelt growls them as guttural cries of pain, especially in the high-velocity heartbreak of "Burning Hand" and "Ecstasy." "Morals" breaks new ground for Iceage, with poignant piano under the guitars.
I get the feeling that the members of Iceage don’t smile very often. Looking through press photos and amateur pictures of the youthful Copenhagen foursome reveal nothing even resembling a half smirk, and live footage of the band frequently shows a pale, emotionless Elias Rønnenfelt limply tossing himself about stage like he hasn’t slept in days. Maybe it’s just those cold Danish winters, or maybe it’s the pains that come with entering your twenties (something that hits a little too close to home), but listening to the group’s latest release, the stellar punk opus You’re Nothing, you begin to think that maybe these guys just need a hug.
Something is rocking in the state of Denmark. Out of Copenhagen’s bluntly named underground punk scene, the New Way Of Danish Fuck You, lurch four young men calling themselves Iceage with a snarl on their lips and a fierce kind of anger in their hearts. Their 2011 debut ‘New Brigade’, recorded while they were wild and recalcitrant kids of 17 and 18 announced their intention to play louder, faster and harder than anyone else around.
When Iceage released their excellent 2011 debut, New Brigade, a large part of the discussion was dedicated to the nihilistic but crush-worthy Danish punk group's ages (at the time, ranging from 18 to 19), and the fact that they sounded much older than that. You also got stories about their bloody live shows and, later, online handwringing about them baiting controversy Joy Division-style by apparently flirting with fascist gestures at one of those shows. In the beginning, though, people were most interested in the part about four young dudes exploding out of "nowhere" (the Copenhagen DIY scene) fully formed and going on to release one of the best punk collections in recent memory.
IceageYou're Nothing[Matador; 2013]By Colin Joyce; February 19, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIn an interview earlier this year, Iceage frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt proclaimed that their move to esteemed US indie rock institution Matador Records had little to do with any band currently on the label or any pull toward the label’s history and had a lot more to do with practical considerations of creative control. Even when they were just beginning to make the climb from Copenhagen’s burgeoning punk scene aboard the Escho records wagon, their music seemed to exist in some strange temporal vacuum. Though their clenched fist approach to noisy post-punk is well worn in idea, the way it played out across the blistering 24 minutes of their debut album, New Brigade, recalled actual tangible isolation.
“Pressure! Pressure! Oh God no!” yells Elias Rønnenfelt on You’re Nothing’s opening track ‘Ecstasy’. If Iceage were worried about following up 2011’s widely lauded debut New Brigade, they needn’t have been. Whatever the Danes chose to make of their return, it would almost certainly be worth sticking around for. And so it is with You’re Nothing, an album that sees the gothic, post-punk misanthropy of their debut bolstered by a perhaps surprising level of muscularity and a heightened emotional intellect that leaves its sentiment lingering long after the album’s fleeting 28 minutes have passed.
Following up their superb 2011 debut, Denmark’s favorite thrashing sons have returned with the vengeful You’re Nothing, featuring the four-piece’s characteristic jagged guitar lines, hardcore hooks gargled to perfection through distortion and singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s grasping vocals with a more refined edge. You can practically see fingers frantically strumming bloody guitar strings, drops trickling onto the moshpit below. Less dense than New Brigade but equally as prowling, You’re Nothing spits and stuns.
It's not a cliché to say Iceage's 2011 breakout came out of nowhere. Only 500 copies of the Danish teenagers' furious debut, New Brigade, were originally printed, and its aggressive, claustrophobic assault propelled the band beyond the basements of Denmark. Now, after a couple of years tearing apart packed venues all over North America, they've found their way onto Matador, the influential American label that's introduced genre-defying punk bands like Fucked Up and Ceremony to larger, more indie-rock-leaning audiences.
Wiry Danish punk revivalists Iceage made a beautiful noise on their 2011 debut, New Brigade, bringing the raw energy of early punk to their chaotic first set of songs. Their brilliant fury wasn't simply a rehash of the bands that influenced them like Wire or pre-Joy Division project Warsaw, but felt more like new life being breathed into the often by-the-numbers punk rock landscape. Where New Brigade was an exciting and furious reminder of how immediate and inspired punk could be, You're Nothing feels like the next logical step taken by a young band whose creative flow is constantly at light speed.
The second full-length from Copenhagen-based punk quartet Iceage, You're Nothing was recorded in an old farmhouse on the Danish island of Møn, a popular tourist destination known for its sandy beaches, old town markets and picturesque countryside. It's not exactly the type of environment that comes to mind upon hearing the dark angst and ruthless energy displayed on the band's follow-up to 2011's New Brigade. Over its 12 tenaciously gritty tracks, You're Nothing reveals itself as an album that operates in contrasts.
Sometimes, hubris isn’t exactly a bad thing, at least not with a band like Iceage that can back it up by channeling can’t-fake-it conviction and self-assured swagger into dynamic, viscerally charged music. Iceage walks the walk, so you know that its talk is never just talk, which is saying something for a young outfit that doesn’t shy away from making bold proclamations and unabashed rallying calls. With the skills to match their brawn, these Danish post-post-punks hearken back to the genre’s roots, boasting an aggro sound with an artistic bent.
The post-punk-meets-hardcore stylings of Danish teenagers Iceage made 2011 debut New Brigade one of the year's underground successes. The follow-up finds them casting aside Joy Division-isms for a more rudimentary sound. It's reminiscent of the unvarnished aggression of early Black Flag, partly due to the barked vocals of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt. Yet beneath the noise, the songs seem more fully realised, more memorable, than on their at times fragmentary debut.
Punk rock used to be strictly a young man’s game. It’s still a young man’s game, but it’s also a young woman’s game, and even an old fart’s game—Zeus knows you don’t have everything figured out after the age of 23. Or 33, for that matter. But that pure recklessness, that feeling of invincibility, can only be truly captured and bottled in those formative years.
For two or three months after their debut album dropped stateside, Iceage were a sensation — or at least as sensational as four Danish teenagers dealing exclusively in sub-three-minute punk songs could ever hope to be. New Brigade was 24 minutes of high-velocity, vaguely gothic throb, a triangulation of No New York, Static Age, and, like, Let the Right One In that had some of their followers anticipating the band to become the greatest Scandinavian punk outfit since Refused. Those expectations weren’t totally out of line, but some of the criticism that came with the album was also justified.
The second album from Denmark's Iceage opens with a delicious din. Throw on some headphones and lean into the dense swirl of crackling guitar, deep throb, and clattering drums of "Ecstasy." Had My Bloody Valentine incorporated economy and aggression into their mix circa Loveless they might have pounded out a similar trail. .
“It was a last-minute thing,” says famously reticent Iceage frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt of the decision to release their second album with Matador. The label enjoys a well-established relationship with What’s Your Rupture, who released Iceage’s debut, and album that was accompanied by a highly successful PR campaign that pushed the hype well beyond the album’s potential or merits. It’s almost as if it was all planned from the start.
The great irony in reviewing Iceage’s latest album is these Danish nihilists don’t care what anyone thinks about them. You are either with them or you are against them. Whatever the case, You’re Nothing. After making international waves in 2011 with their irrepressibly furious debut New Brigade, this four piece have ploughed blithely on towards oblivion.
Iceage’s 2011 debut, New Brigade, traversed post-punk, goth, and hardcore in just over 24 minutes, taking its influence from not just seminal punk acts like Wire, but the post-punk bands that defined the mid 2000s like Bloc Party. The Danish foursome’s follow-up, You’re Nothing, provides another solid 12 tracks of loud, bleak teenage ennui, but with a comparative lack of genre diversity. While frontman Elias Rønnenfelt’s lyrics were hardly decipherable on New Brigade, the choice to isolate his voice in the mix on You’re Nothing‘s one-two punch opening, “Ecstasy” and “Coalition,” is a striking contrast.
Danish quartet Iceage are the standard bearers for "hipster hardcore", that being high-velocity punk rock played not for a grizzled crowd in Black Flag T-shirts, but (ostensibly) for the kids with assymetrical haircuts. It's also a little different to traditional hardcore, swapping the original genre's precision and military discipline for a carefully nurtured sloppiness. Presumably the sense that it might all fall apart at any moment is meant to convey quite how wild and couldn't-give-a-toss they are, even though it means the brutal attack of the music is lost in exchange.
Punk band in suspected Nazi shocker! Where's the fascist behind your bed/hiding between How To Dress Well and Japandroids in your naughtily acquired iTunes library? The actions of some of Iceage's audience, their choice of imagery and rather awkward penchant for merch that features vicious looking knives are currently causing a bit of a stink online. Artists emerging from the hardcore scene (or indeed, most scenes that have at their heart abrasive noise) are wont to pursue imagery that many find unpalatable. Doesn't mean it's right, but it happens, and has done for decades.
Prior to hearing New Brigade, few would be able to predict that the most abrasively honest punk rock album would be coming from four teens in Denmark. New Brigade was an exhilarating, bare-boned debut, accented by penetrating guitars, crashing drums, and the intense vocal groans of Elias Rønnenfelt. True to their music, Iceage have since avoided the luxuries and indulgences of international hype, opting to keep a low profile and perform short, bombastic live sets in small venues.
It’s a classic coming of age story. Four teenage friends from Copenhagen, Denmark form a band. They can’t play their instruments all too well, but are damn well angry enough to try. Angry about what, you may ask. There might be a number of reasons, but what better way to propagate anger than in ….
It was the frenzied imperfections on ‘New Brigade’ that made Iceage one of the more unexpected success stories of 2011, tracks imploding at breakneck speed in to havoc until Elias Bender Rønnenfelt and co. guided the listeners to furious climaxes. And ever since, the young Danes have reaped havoc with their live shows that have become renowned for their furious energy and Elias’ death stare.The progression Iceage have made in such a short space of time, returning with ‘You’re Nothing’, is remarkable.
This Danish quartet writes toothy, blackened, and thoroughly foreign two-minute punk songs that escape classification in any niche. Matador signed them, international tours roll regularly, and a number of stoic, antagonistic interviews have been written in their honor. Sophomore effort You're Nothing remains a people's album nonetheless. More than any rainy, apocalyptic hardcore, Iceage owns the craft of rampaging, chugga-chugga guitar hooks.
Aggression takes many forms. On its first album, 2011’s New Brigade, Danish punks Iceage launched a frantic, youthful attack that combined the unruly attitude of hardcore with the dead-eyed clangor of post-punk and industrial music while layering everything with a brooding gothic haze. It was perfect walking-around-a-rainy-city-feeling-angry music; songs like “White Ruin” had the power to transform you into a petulant 18-year-old, gazing upon a demolished landscape and wishing for nothing more than to be swallowed by the void.
PORTAL “Vexovoid”. (Profound Lore Records).
Young Danish punks create a beautiful noise for the worldwide disaffected. Ben Myers 2013 Iceage’s 2011 debut New Brigade was a frantic and breathless din that struck a chord with those bored by pop and alternative rock’s propensity for gloss and over production. It arrived hewn from hardcore punk dynamics, barbed like the best of lo-fi English post-punk and shrouded in a particularly shadowy, Scandinavian sense of seasonal affective oppressiveness.