Since releasing 2011's bleak and scuzzy 'New Brigade', Danish punks Iceage have been a force to be reckoned with in the scene, truly standing out from their peers. Their sound is largely depressing post-punk thanks to numb musicality and strong emotions being outpoured, but with significant pages out of the hardcore and noise rock book to give them even more of an edge. They've also released 2013's 'You're Nothing' and last year's 'Plowing Into The Field Of Love' where they've progressed across these records, managing to make songs more memorable without losing any bite. They hit Leeds' Brudenell Social Club this month where we saw their significance on the stage too.
First though was Mush who played distorted Pixies/Sonic Youth-esque indie; effect heavy, psychedelic guitars with a hell of a lot of bends. The robotic, monotonous vocals morphed into the occasional feral bark lending some unpredictability.
Next is Helm who couldn't be more different playing hypnotic electronic drone music. There's lots of long ghostly notes with the occasional cascade of think loops and samples. It's not for everyone, but whether you like it or not, absolutely everyone in attendance had their eyes glued to the artists as they struggled to decide whether they were left wanting more or glad it's over.
While their sound could be described as vicious and aggressive with the thick basslines and frenetic riffs, Iceage are rather hazy when it comes to the mood of the songs. Naturally, Iceage's performance mirrors their sound. Frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt spent much of the show appearing disorientated as if he'd just woken up and found himself on stage, probably brought on by how much Iceage's misery flows through him. The band's movement was limited, but there was still a strong level of intensity just from the brooding nature of the songs.
Likewise, the crowd reacted in two ways to Iceage's double-edged music. There are those who slammed into each over and those who kind of just swayed along to the dimmer elements. From the start though, it was quite alarming how severe the moshing actually was, bearing in mind that Iceage don't have the most sonically hard hitting sound, but it just goes to show that you don't need the toughest guitar tones or the most extreme rhythms to strike something in people. Energy and raw emotion will more than get the job done.
'Ploughing Into the Field Of Love' was incredibly gentle and sombre with dry guitar and Elias sounding lost as he sang, but it built up to some bursts of hostility which, even though not punishing sonically, still got people moving to the uncaged fury. For the short but sweet 'Abundant Living', there's much less pacing, with the lively riff and forceful mechanical drums arriving early and getting straight to the point, so people could bounce from start to finish.
'Morals' was hauntingly beautiful with marching band vibes thanks to its commanding drum beat. Elias solemnly crooned about how he longs to be someone else before once again propelling the crowd into a frenzy.
People got a little friendlier for the uncharacteristically jovial 'The Lord's Favourite' as they linked arms to the song's breezy country beat. It's testament to Iceage's diversity that even in a show this intense, there can still be moments of pure joy like this.
Seeing Iceage live was a unique experience. It's the perfect middle ground between your standard punk rock shambles and the sort of morose atmosphere that leaves your body being unable to decide whether to bash into someone or just go numb with the music. Whichever you end up doing, Iceage know how to play a gripping show without relying on standard conventions.
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