Review: Iceage – ‘You’re Nothing’

Danish noise punk band Iceage has long flown their flag of nihilism. They don’t care what people think of them, you can like them or not, it just doesn’t matter. The original 500 copies of the band’s debut, New Brigade, suited them just fine. When the explosion of interest to New Brigade’s aggressive, noise-fueled, urgent sound hit, the accolades did little to impress the band. Now comes their second album, You’re Nothing, and Iceage press heavy down on the pedal as they speed towards oblivion.

The first pass of You’re Nothing could maintain the idea that Iceage don’t care. The brutality and noise still crash over each other, bleeding into the other’s folds as vocalist EliasRønnenfelt screams his catharsis over it all. The whole album comes across like a musical version of Tyler Durden’s quote, “Self improvement is masturbation. Now self destruction…

On the second pass the sound and evolution of what Iceage can do betrays their nihilist sentiment. The band has grown as songwriters, though they hide it well by maintaining their savage fury. Just beneath that posturing surface of disenchanted attitude, real songs exist. Rønnenfelt’s lyrics are more introspective and emotional this go-round. In “Ecstasy”, when he screams “Pressure, pressure, oh God no,” there’s a visceral desperation to the words.

While there may be small glimmers that Iceage actually do care, don’t get a false sense of security. You’re Nothing is a hot mess in the best way. It sounds so raw, so unpolished that you might believe the band walked in and started playing, letting the chips fall where they may. “Coalition” has a high wail guitar sound ala The Stooges but without any structure. The bashing of guitar strings and drums make the song sound like it might fall apart at any second. Controlled chaos? Possibly. The sound of pure passion being chosen over anything else? Probably.

“Burning Hand” is a darker song. It lives within the same cacophony of sound that “Coalition” does, but takes cues from Joy Division and Killing Joke as opposed to Black Flag or The Stooges. “In Haze” is the catchiest song on the album, though Rønnenfelt does his best to derail that by singing all over the beat without actually landing on it. “Morals” stammers along, but not like doom metal, more like Iceage trying to write a ballad by slowing down their attack and, in parts, trying to put a swing to it.

As You’re Nothing speeds towards its climax, Iceage strip everything down and focus on massive attack. “It Might Hit First”, “Rodfaestet” and even the title track exist simply to pummel you into submission. You’re Nothing isn’t just high energy or frantic, it’s unbridled chaos that should collapse under its own weight.

This is not an album for everybody and Iceage seem quite comfortable with that. Black Flag, Void, Refused, early COC and Bad Brains all shared this chaotic vibe, but without the nihilistic edge nor the nod to romantic influences like Joy Division, Husker Du and even a touch of Jesus And Mary Chain. The dark pop sensibilities clash head on with the noise punk style. Within the eye of that storm you can find the Iceage sound.

You’re nothing is saved from the sophomore slump because it beats the holy hell out of itself. While New Brigade existed as the ramblings of a hardened artist, You’re Nothing is a raw nerve, one that explodes every time it’s touched. Iceage may suffer the youthful cliché of nihilistic rhetoric but where in their music, where it counts, the true passion is undeniable and the songs are above reproach.