Denmark’s Iceage, a group of four guys just breaking the age of 20, have been deemed by some as “the saviours of punk” and this label isn’t for naught. While the world may not need any saviours of punk, (since many of the great punk bands of the past are still kicking – i.e Bad Brains tour, and two versions of a Black Flag reunion are touring too) Iceage is without a doubt a breath of fresh air in punk music. They display an intensity that cant be matched by many groups today, and they don’t follow the conventions of any particular genre. The groups debut, New Brigade had loud, jangly punk music with influences from hardcore and metal, but wasn’t an obvious showing of any such genre. With the groups newest release, You’re Nothing, we see the same ideals as their debut executed through a series of loud, abrasive and forward-thinking punk jams. You’re Nothing also displays some additional influences that weren’t present on the groups debut, from indie rock and alternative to experimental in some cases.
While punk is still the closest label for Iceage, their songs are rarely structured like a punk song. The album opener “Ecstasy” has a relatively slow drum beat in it, but when it is matched with the rabid strumming of the guitars it radiates this punk aesthetic. Elias Bender Rønnenfelt‘s vocals as usual are working at their own pace, only partially matching with the music but still driving the track greatly.
The groups new influences begin to show through songs like “In Haze”, which has a clean and fun sounding riffs throughout the song, reminding me of more rock-centered bands like FIDLAR or The Men. Iceage still manages to inject the song with raw energy and some passionate vocals from Rønnenfelt, making it seem more punk than rock in the end. Easily the most unique song on the record “Morals” almost shows influence from contemporary songwriters with the use of an emotional, striking piano melody. The song has a direct split between these engaging moments driven by piano, and the fast-paced and energized punk that Iceage does so well. Though these sections seem polar, they couldn’t fit together better, with the loud, energized parts picking up the momentum in swells.
While punk is still the best label for this group, I wouldn’t say that it describes the group as a whole. The attitudes, execution and energy of Iceage are what make them fit under this label, not the groups playing. With some of the most unique guitar work around as well as great momemtum through these tracks, You’re Nothing shows that Iceage isn’t going to slow down any time soon. You’re Nothing does house some moments that are more like the groups debut, like the tracks “Burning Hand” or “It Might Hit First”, but these songs still contain their own energy and momentum. Rønnenfelt shows just how awesome the Danish language is in the track “Rodfæstet”, which may not be easy to understand, but is so easy to start moving to.
More than any other element, the guitars on this record have stepped into a league of their own. From the classic riffs in songs like “Burning Hand” to the maniacal strumming in tracks like “Ecstasy” to the fun riffs in “Awake”, this record has a lot of variety within the strings itself. It just goes to show how far music can go if you don’t allow constraints to be put on yourself or your genre. Punk music has been around long enough, but the particular avenue that Iceage has built makes it seem as if the wheel has been reinvented. You’re Nothing is an album that is simultaneously fast and relaxed, one that mixes the angst of early punk music with many other influences that make it hard to give the group a label. Given the bands trajectory since they emerged in 2011, modern punk will be ever changing, and I am so cool with that.