Iceage, Copenhagen’s post-punk pride and joy, have constantly burst the bubble of limitations, breaking through for good with 2014’s ‘Plowing Into the Field of Love’, a record that saw the quartet avoid casting off the shackles of human expectation, instead hammering down on them with a merciless assault. ‘Beyondless’ sees Iceage hint at giving in to a commercially mature wind of change, the notion of which hopefully hasn’t made too many fans avert their eyes and ears, as a crazed rock band becomes a slightly less crazed rock band.
That’s not to say Iceage have conformed in any kind of conventional way on ‘Beyondless’. The release has received a bit more commercial hype than the band’s previous albums or lead singer Elias Bender Ronnenfelt’s side project ‘Marching Church’, so it might unnerve a few fans, predicting some form of record label compromise. While the chaos found on Iceage’s previous work has been played down, and intelligible song structures played up, many of the key aspects of their sound have remained.
One of these aspects is the mere fact that Iceage seemingly like to tell people, through their music, that they don’t really have a core sound. Alien to previous releases, we get a few jazzy horns on ‘Beyondless’, seen on ‘Pain Killer’ (featuring Sky Ferreira) and ‘Showtime’, and the pop bounciness of ‘Thieves Like Us’ borders on baroque. The hunger for something a little different shown by the band is comparable to the rockabilly of ‘The Lord’s Favourite’, and the Celtic chaos of ‘Abundant Living’, both from ‘Plowing’.
The main benefit of your average Iceage song previously would’ve been the theatrics of Elias Ronnenfelt, like a modern Jim Morrison, but a breathier Jim Morrison, thirstily crawling through the desert. We’re gifted with some incredible roars from Ronnenfelt on ‘Plead the Fifth’, particularly during its wordless “la la la” outro, and throughout ‘Catch It’. On previous albums, these theatrics fit well with the ambiguity of many of the lyrics, but said ambiguity may generally have been one of the less desirable traits of Iceage. This is perhaps the key factor improved on with ‘Beyondless’, with many songs providing commentary on matters of politics, social struggles and war.
Opener ‘Hurrah’ is full of hard-hitting psycho poetry, about the contrast of a soldier’s instinct to kill and your everyday person’s similar capabilities. The chorus of “we can’t stop killing and we’ll never stop killing” is formidably hit home by Ronnenfelt’s battering ram voice, but the most brutal lyrics lie within the second verse – “some are awarded shell shock / or the loss of a limb or two / you’ll just have to take heart / if it hasn’t already been taken from you”. A similar sentiment is echoed on ‘Take It All’, but with a lot more reluctance, with Ronnenfelt struggling to see any redeeming quality in anyone who puts another’s life at risk, stating “the world is a crime”.
The hectic, cannot-be-contained performance style of Iceage will be missed, as it only sporadically makes appearances on ‘Beyondless’, but the story-driven style of the album’s lyrics give Elias Ronnenfelt’s baritone moans that bit more authenticity. ‘Beyondless’ isn’t a step back for Iceage, it’s a step in an unlocatable direction, fitting for a band that has never accepted linearity.
‘Beyondless’ is out now via Matador Records. The albums full track listing is as follows…
Under The Sun
The Day The Music Dies
Plead The Fifth
Thieves Like Us
Take It All