Four Danish punks. That’s the surface of Iceage, the brilliantly angry/angsty/antsy band that breaks your mind with speed and brutality. If you’re not familiar with the band, and you’re not already sold, I don’t believe we are at an understanding here. Their 2011 debut, New Brigade, was a 24-minute death trap. Twelve songs of pure, polarizing hardcore post-punk, with notables “White Rune” and “You’re Blessed”, their debut was surprising, jolting, and downright out-of-nowhere. You’re Nothing, the band’s sophomore effort, is blindingly superior.
New Brigade was short and filled with concise & incomprehensible scream fits; You’re Nothing upgrades by using biting, sharp accusations. When vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt opens up on “Awake”, he’s just muttering and then saying words, rather than just screaming, which is radically different. Screaming is, of course, prevalent. Take the entire song “You’re Nothing” – exasperated screams over jarring percussion that somehow melds with the guitars that barely maintain to stay together, sounding like they are unraveling at the foundation.
This isn’t much longer – 28 minutes, by comparison. But this album is a more full experience, featuring breakdowns and slower songs like “Morals”. The band has grown sonically, not just berating with noise and fury. Rhythms and “melodies” are sometimes prevalent. “Ecstasy”, the album’s opener, is what a punk anthem would be, if it wasn’t deteriorated and dying. Dissonant & evil, Rønnenfelt forces out “Pressure, pressure / pressure / oh, god, no / I can’t take this” as the track dwindles away, only to have “Coalition” fly back up to the field of Hell and bring the blind fury right back. Screaming “excess”, the track’s guitars sound so scratchy and abrasive, compelling the listener to even wonder what the hell that is.
A fanciful break from audible torment, “Interlude” flutters by and shows the rest of the album’s true colors. “Burning Hand” features a strange chugging bass line and plunders away at your ears just that bit more, showcasing scrawling guitars that sound like dying kittens. This is the longest song on the album at 3:21, and you can notice that most of the other tracks are 1:30-3:00. Iceage perfects minimalism by not meandering and shoving the best they can in the shortest time – very, very punk-esque of them. “Morals”, the most radical of this batch of twelve, is a slow, dark, and brooding number where Rønnenfelt accuses, “Where’s your morals?” Repetitive bass pulsates to a snare beat and fades away, instead of abruptly ending.
You’re Nothing is a damn fine success. Building on everything New Brigade was, refining ideas, and adding new ones – the typical way to follow-up. Iceage is just the best example of many bands that have done this. It is very hard, especially in this day and age, to overcome and make an album that is better than your last. This group just surprises and surpasses with intensity and immense power. Attacking with barrages of noise and punk isn’t the most accessible way to attain fans and live rock star lives, but I’m sure the four Danish punks don’t care.
Written by Dylan Tracy
OurVinyl | Contributor