Iceage's 'Seek Shelter' Will Restore Anyone's Faith in Rock Music
Published May 05, 2021Many bands have been compared to Joy Division over the years, but Copenhagen's Iceage have been the closest to ever capturing their essence. When the four-piece post-punk band first emerged with New Brigade in 2011, they arrived fully formed — at least in the minds of critics — with a Byronic and laconic frontman, austere stage presence, high cheekbones, (regrettable) flirtations with fascist imagery and unwieldy arrangements that seemed prone to combustion.
But the band never seemed to buy into the hype.
Instead, after upping the ante with 2012's You're Nothing, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt and co. began a transformation — refining their sound and sanding down their bleak barrage until only rock's roots remained. 2014's Plowing into the Field of Love and 2018's Beyondless found the band taking inspiration more from Motown, proto-punk, gospel music, and America's honky-tonks than Denmark's DIY clubs to create their maximal rock'n'roll, while side project Marching Church allowed Rønnenfelt and guitarist Johan Suurballe Wieth to stretch their artistic muscle by reaching even further into the depths of their record collections.
Now, a decade since their debut, the former enfant terribles seem to have arrived at their final destination and sound more assured than ever before with Seek Shelter — a stunning achievement that will restore even the most lapsed practitioner's faith in rock music.
Joining them this time around in the studio — alongside additional guitarist Casper Morilla Fernandez and longtime collaborator Nis Bysted — is Pete Kember (a.k.a. Sonic Boom). As a shoegaze progenitor and member of Spacemen 3, Kember (an accomplished solo artist and producer in his own right) has been known to perfectly merge the sweet and the sour. Here, he takes Rønnenfelt's half-drunk-sounding hymns and elevates them to levels of agony and ecstasy previously unattainable by the band alone.
Album opener "Shelter Song" offers up a Noel Gallagher-esque riff to the masses before being joined by a choir and delivering a chorus that soars with a Mick Jagger swagger. And on "High & Hurt" and single "Vendetta," their trademark rollicking guitars and roiling drums nearly boil over as the band confidently chugs along to a steady groove.
Elsewhere, they soften their standoffish sound with "Love Kills Slowly" and "Drink Rain" — the former containing some of Rønnenfelt's clearest and connecting lyrics, while the latter is their strangest and silliest song to date, as the frontman sings about drinking up stormwater to feel closer to a love interest. The band then movie past the heart and go straight for the id with Springsteen-esque standout "Gold City" and sacred pub thumper "Saint Cecilia."
Providing some parting closure on "The Holding Hand," Rønnenfelt sings of a "limp-wristed God" and one's never-ending search for solace and a saviour. Seek Shelter, as a whole, finds Iceage refusing to be pigeonholed and instead reaching out — exploring life, love and the lack thereof — and ending up exactly where they should be. (Mexican Summer)