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What is Iceage Doing?

Danish post-punk four-piece Iceage are set to release their fifth album, Sheek Shelter, this spring due May 7 on Brooklyn-based indie label Mexican Summer. Over the last couple of months, they’ve put out three singles from the album: “The Holding Hand,” “Vendetta,” and “Shelter Song.” If you’re like me and were expecting a more polished cow-punk sound based on the route they had taken on their last two albums, Plowing into the Field of Love and Beyondless, I’m sorry to say, but you’re going to be disappointed. 

It’s really kind of hard to say what Iceage is trying to do with their sound for this upcoming album, but it’s safe to say that I don’t exactly love it. It’s almost as if their sound has matured, but not in a way that many listeners have found all that favorable. Iceage has gotten rid of their old hardcore punk sound in an attempt to revert back to the more “classic” post-punk sound a la bands like Depeche Mode and Killing Joke, but is it working? With all three singles thus far feeling like they won’t end, it would be useful if Iceage were to bring back the melodramatic energy that was ever present in their first few albums. With all that being said, I’m going to review the three singles so you don’t have to.

I’ll begin with the first single, “The Holding Hand.” The track starts off with a quiet, ominous metronome and a drum machine for a couple seconds when singer Elias Rønnenfelt laments into the microphone about whatever existential crisis he was going through during the writing process for this album. The song is a slow burner, to say the least, until you reach the halfway point and you can feel the emotion in Rønnenfelt’s voice with the grandiose drumming and violin in the background. However, once the song reaches its intense buildup, all enthusiasm disappears as the track concludes. It feels too cookie-cutter, too polished to me. For this album, the band outsourced a producer, and it’s evident, as the track doesn’t have Iceage’s trademark grittiness. 

The second single was “Vendetta,” and I really hated this one. It started off with the drum machine again, which was shortly followed by lamentation stemming from Rønnenfelt’s mouth. The song is so cheesy, even with the lyrics. Everything about it says that it wants to be in some ridiculous, way too commercialized action flick. I wish I could say something positive about this track, but with lyrics like, “tired of misbehaving,” and “Vendetta, vendetta, I’ma gonna getcha,” it’s just really hard to take it seriously, knowing the level of artistry that the band is capable of and how it was completely absent on this track. 

And now for the last single, “Shelter Song.” I’ve only listened to this one once, and that was a week or so ago when it was released. To be honest, I wasn’t able to get through it on my first listen, and I probably wouldn’t have gone back to it if it weren’t for this article. Instead of a drum machine, this one has a choir and twangy guitar. It, of course, still features Rønnenfelt’s increasingly whiney voice recounting a crisis he’s going through. With the way the vocals turn into a chant as the track continues, it starts to feel more and more formulaic; it’s like all creativity was thrown into the nearest trash bin when the band was working on this song. 

With the lack of Iceage’s trademark uniqueness, I’m not holding out any hope that this is going to be a good album. If you, dearest reader, would like to like to indulge in bad music by a great group, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for the album, Sheek Shelter, due out May 7. Call up your local record store and pre-order a copy.

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