Published Apr 30, 2018It goes without saying that Iceage are not a cheerful band. Ever since their brutal debut, New Brigade, the Danish post-punks have bombarded listeners with their disorderly mix of hardcore, goth and rockabilly. But beneath that chaotic gloom, singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt has steadily sharpened his lyrics to a euphoric edge. Whether it cuts through his characters' megalomania, their religiosity, their debauchery or some combination of all three, his sense of the ecstatic has guided the band since You're Nothing's lead-off track "Ecstasy."
On Iceage's fourth album, the rest of the band are ready to get in on the action. Where their old material kept arrangements lean and tones caustic, Beyondless bursts with energy and swagger. It's easily the quartet's most broadly appealing effort, although that accessibility sometimes obscures their core strengths.
Most notably, the band have embraced a wall of sound that complements Rønnenfelt's lyrics. The frontman has long relied on repetition to hammer home his themes, but the mid-tempo psychedelia of lead single "Catch It" transmutes his chants into urgent incantations. Horn arrangements and guitar solos lend a triumphant contrast to the lyrical regret of "Pain Killer," while string sections amplify the already-ascendant bridge on "Under the Sun."
No matter how well the band pairs music and lyrics, though, Beyondless suffers when Rønnenfelt gets vulnerable. It's hard to fathom that the same band who recorded "The Lord's Favorite" would go on to pen "Take It All," a U2 riff so earnest that even Bono might roll his eyes at it. The title track is a fitting closer, but cloying piano and string arrangements soften its resigned lyrics. Iceage make unpleasant music, but their bland sentimentality is the most disagreeable thing on Beyondless. (Matador)