By now it’s well known that Iceage are prone to a dramatic shift in style. After the Danish band made their name with their early razor-sharp punk album, it was both baffling and thrilling when they suddenly mutated into a shambling country rock‘n’roll outfit for ‘The Lord’s Favourite’ in 2014, and then again into churning heavy psych-rockers for 2018’s ‘Beyondless’.
So their fifth album is yet another reinvention of their sound, this time into sweeping, cathartic power ballads and anthemic stadium roc. What’s notable, though, is that even when compared to their past progressions in the past this is a considerable step forward. ‘Seek Shelter’ is a record overflowing in grandeur, a vast emotional release after a decade spent coiled like a spring.
Recorded with Sonic Boom, aka Pete Kember of space-rock masters Spacemen 3, whose influence you can hear on the colossal drone of lead single ‘Vendetta’, it’s the first time the band have opened themselves up to an outside producer. Their lengthy sessions together, which took place in an ancient Lisbon studio so decrepit that rain would leak through the ceiling, were reportedly defined by a desire to carve out a sense of warmth and calm as puddles swelled around their feet and chaos raged in the virus-ravaged world outside. There’s a lot to be read into the record’s title.
That sense of wrenching emotion is shot through ‘Seek Shelter’s core. It’s in the colossal gospel vocals that back opener ‘Shelter Song’’s yearning Americana-tinged chorus; ‘They kick you when you’re up, they knock you when you’re down’ croons Elias Bender Rønnenfelt with desperation as guitars swell behind him. It’s in the anthemic heartland rock pumps of ‘Gold City’; the dramatic swoons of ballad ‘Love Kills Slowly’; the dashing ‘Dear Saint Cecilia’, which rumbles along with the audacity of an early 70s Rolling Stones cut; and the see-saw between plunging heavy rock and power ballad bombast that makes up ‘The Wide Powder Blue’.
All of this makes for a record that never sits still, an album of considerable polish and scope and by far the boldest thing the Danes have ever made, but also a album that still feels distinctly theirs. The clattering atonal squall that ends the record’s closer ‘The Holding Hand’ could have been lifted from their earliest albums; Rønnenfelt’s voice still overflows with intense charisma 10 years on. The fierce 90-second punk songs of their early days might now have morphed into vast stadium-rock anthems, but Iceage remain as razor-sharp as ever.
Release date: May 7
Record label: Mexican Summer