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Album Review: Iceage – You’re Nothing

Straight out of the bleak landscapes of Denmark, this heavier 2nd release from young punks Iceage is wild, sketchy and in parts, oddly melodic. You’re Nothing, their second full-length, opens with lead single ‘Ecstasy‘ which immediately drops the listener in at the murky deep end. It’s a calculatedly chaotic punk song, with desperation-laced vocals from singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt that leave you feeling slightly unsettled.

This is their first release on Matador records, which is home to American punk contemporaries Fucked Up and Ceremony, and it will attract many of the same fans. The production throughout the album is laden with distortion and has a muggy, live feel to it, as if half of the frequencies are being absorbed by sweaty bodies in a Danish basement gig. The often slurred vocals sit fairly low in the mix, which works as well in maintaining that live sound.

They meander into a more melodic style on ‘Morals’, revisiting the moody, grungey vocals of their 2011 debut, New Brigade. Also, the use of an unexpected piano makes it a real highlight of the album. ‘Wounded Hearts’, meanwhile, has a more garage-punk feel to it, with Rønnenfelt whining psychotically down the microphone, which nods to the likes of Brighton’s Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. ‘It Might Hit First’ is Iceage at their heaviest, and lasting barely over a minute long, leans more towards 80s’ hardcore punk ideals.

Since their beginnings in 2008, they’ve battled with controversy and claims that they’re linked to neo-fascism, but they’ve managed to take it in their stride. Their unusual band behaviour and restrained demeanour in interviews has helped them to shroud themselves in an enigma. So much so in fact, that it’s increasingly hard to separate the music itself from the Iceage saga. From selling Iceage flick-knives as part of their merch range, to their intense music videos, Iceage have created something that sets them apart from the banal camaraderie of popular British indie and punk, and means they exist almost isolated amid different music scenes. This uniqueness is juxtaposed with their high-octane live shows, which are steeped in punk rock standards that are shared in the scene the world-over.

A question could be raised of whether they would be as well received if they were four crusty squatters from South London, that didn’t photograph as well or use mysterious imagery and symbolism. However, more often than not, bands are at their best when they come as a package like these.

Fans of their debut album will enjoy this in a same-again-please kind of way. Growing within a framework, especially such a distinctive one, can be very powerful in grounding a band in their sound. You’re Nothing is evidence that they’ve stayed true to the musical blueprints they’ve established since day one, which, by the sounds of it, were to make unrelenting, lo-fi punk rock and not look back.

- Jak Hutchcraft

You’re Nothing is available now through Matador.

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