To follow the career of Danish post-punk miscreants Iceage is an examination of evolution in both sound and vision.
Since the band’s universally acclaimed debut, ‘New Brigade’, in 2011; fans have seen the growth of four young, polo-shirted, bomber-jacketed men who make a beautifully, brutal, scratchy, chaotic din to something altogether more measured, weather-beaten and world weary; first witnessed on the quartet artistic peak and criminally underrated third opus, ‘Plowing Into The Field of Love’.
This change in direction has come without dividing the group’s core audience; devotees have perhaps even predicted this since the group’s sophomore effort ‘You’re Nothing’ in 2013 which featured their first attempt in balladry with the piano driven Morals.
Over the years, the fog created by the tumultuous guitar and drum work of Johan Surrballe Wieth and Dan Kjær Nielsen respectively have dispersed well enough for the poetic musings of frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt to come to the fore, and despite the lack of urgency or drama found on earlier records, ‘Beyondless’ is undisputedly the most accessible album Iceage have crafted to date and the perfect introduction to the band for the as of yet uninitiated.
The album pulls no punches at the start. Opener Hurrah is a scathing, sarcastic take on war, human cruelty and the decline of civil society. This leads straight into Painkiller, the closest Iceage have ever come to crafting a radio-ready hit single to date. Bubbling with jazzy horns, the track is catchy with more than a hint of danger, just about supported by Rønnenfelt’s trademark drawl and a welcome feature from Sky Ferreira.
Elsewhere, Iceage add a little more colour to their mostly sepia toned palette – Wieth’s dexterous guitar playing shimmers on cow-punk tinged numbers such as Under The Sun and Plead The Fifth, while Rønnenfelt plays the part of a shambolically drunk cabaret singer on Showtime.
The album’s pace begins to falter in its latter half, a shift marked by the masterful, psyched-out, Velvet Underground-indebted Catch It. By the time the bewildering, bait-and-switch title track fades the album out; you begin to wonder if you’ve been listening to the same band for the last twelve-odd minutes.
Easy as it may be to lament the loss of abrasion of earlier Iceage releases, it must be said that had they carried on in the same nihilistic vein they began with, they would have burned out by now. The stylistic change was vital to their progression and integrity as artists. A solid album, if ‘Beyondless’ is their weakest album – which it very well might be – they must be one of the greatest, if most underappreciated and overlooked, rock and roll bands in the world.