Since the release of their first LP, New Brigade, the Danish quartet Iceage has always seemed to be on the precipice of achieving something great. This isn’t to say that their previous work was bad, on the contrary, since the start of the decade the band has maintained one of the most consistently great discographies in rock music. They’ve achieved this feat by constantly pushing themselves to newer territories, be it a more mature lyrical pallet on 2013’s You’re Nothing or exploring the sounds of Americana on 2014’s Plowing Into The Fields of Love.
But for as great as each of those records were, there was always slight bumps that prevented the band from fully delivering on their promise. And yet four years after that last leap the band have made their biggest push yet with Beyondless a record that finally feels like the band taking a giant leap forward to a new level of greatness.
That shift is immediately felt on opener “Hurrah” where the band’s trademark punk sound is met with horn and brass that wouldn’t sound of place on a Nick Cave record. Lyrically the track is a little more straightforward than past Iceage tracks, which works wonders. Frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt mood clearly hasn’t shifted from its permanent sour in the past four years as he growls about a soldier who discovers an evil inside of him that he more than willing to let out.
Self-destruction is a theme on many of the tracks on Beyondless with Rønnenfelt’s lyrics painting toxic relationships, addiction and anxiety in a dark yet somewhat cheeky style. Take lead single “Painkiller” for example, Rønnenfelt with some vocal help from Sky Ferreira sing of a couple so involved that they crave each other’s saliva and find a self-medicating quality to their time together. It’s a dark track for sure but it never veers into complete despair instead finding new turns with every verse.
In an interview earlier this year Rønnenfelt talked about Beyondless saying, “We always try and push whatever we already have into some sort of unknown territory.” And this is key to the success of the album, where most bands might stick to their guns Iceage revel in the chance to dig deeper into themselves. Elements of their past releases are more refined, like on the track “Catch It” which takes the Americana explored on their previous release and tackles it with a more refined style.
If there is one complaint that could be leveled at the album it’s track lengths. Clearly, the band was trying something new with stretching out some of these songs to four sometimes five minutes. And while for the most part this doesn’t damper the songs, it’s hard not to see where cutting some fat might of made for a better album.
Still, what is here is just too good to ignore. Iceage clearly understands what it takes to remain exciting to listen to and with Beyondless it’s easy to see why they won’t be leaving the conversation anytime soon.
Beyondless is out now on Matador Records.