At last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, Danish punks Iceage came on stage looking relatively pissed off, which is probably their customary stage presence, but all the same, they had reason to be. 19 year-old frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt had two of his guitars stolen in Wicker Park the previous Thursday, so for the first day of the tour he had no choice but to play some random Epiphone instead of the blood-red Hagström that was of “emotional value” to Rønnenfelt. As if things couldn’t have gotten worse for the group, who were mostly limited to playing smaller, bloodier club shows, as opposed to a park full of indie-boppers at 2pm on a Sunday, they blew a couple bass heads before finally delivering a sweltering, emotionally gripping, (albeit short) performance.
While it definitely wasn’t one of the smoothest shows of the event, it was one of the most fascinating and unabashedly energized. Like their debut, 24-minute, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, record New Brigade, that had European audiences deeming them “saviors” of punk, the show provided an enigmatic amount of energy in a short amount of time that left me with migraines of intrigue. Was it their age? Was it Rønnenfelt’s unplaceable, suspended vocals? Or was it that Iceage didn’t give a fuck about how they were perceived? If anything, it seemed that the group was onto something via their abrasive two-minute thrashers, laced with eroded guitar-work and unintelligible vocals.
Their sophomore record You’re Nothing is just two-minutes longer, but somehow doubles the energy that their debut so darkly wields. Harnessing colossal walls of guitar, exuding finer brushstrokes of songwriting, and amassing a more intense, vein popping muscle of emotion and lyricism that are miles above most indie punk bands, You’re Nothing exhibits a spectacular progression in the group's sonic integrity.
The albums leads off with the awesomely harsh “Ecstasy,” which enters with pulses of chainsaw-esque guitar riffs as Rønnenfelt’s largely indistinguishable, agitated vocals erupt, putting chord changes into focus as the song unfurls into a thriving punk track. As the tempo changes from verse to bridge to chorus, the song works its way into a whirlwind of angst as, “Pressure, Pressure! Oh God no!” becomes one of most crushing vocals ever uttered by the frontman. “Coalition” takes on a fast, more elemental punk scheme as it bristles with waves of percussion and Rønnenfelt belts hurriedly, fumbling over each word carelessly, “Somehow things are still not lost / But I sure feel alienated / Is their flesh disintegrated / These days I’m numb and faded.”
“In Haze” has an intricacy not heard yet from the band, with crisper sounding guitar licks and a more structured tempo change that takes massive, confident strides melodically. “Morals” is a gem of a punk ballad and a focal point of the record. With militant, downcast guitar and bass cornering weak piano clanks, Rønnenfelt cradles his vocals as they drip with an unrelenting vulnerability, sending chills. Again, we are exposed to a new and brilliant strand of songwriting with the track, it displays Iceage’s versatility and willingness to take inspiration from anywhere, which apparently includes 60s pop, as the song’s catalytic muse was “L’Ultima Occasione” by Italian singer Mina.