Iceage – ‘Plowing Into The Field Of Love’

The Danish nihilists obliterate their past on brutal third album

There’s no sin in rock’n’roll as crushingly dull as conformity. Be thankful, then, for the iconoclasts. Be thankful for Iceage. Their 2011 debut ‘New Brigade’ and 2013 successor ‘You’re Nothing’ made the Copenhagen quartet poster boys for bloody nihilism: a bunch of young, wild punks so hellbent on making anthems for a doomed youth it seemed they need never bother growing up.

But in July of this year, they unveiled new track ‘The Lord’s Favourite’. A strange beast of honky-tonk and tongue-in-cheek country posturing, it was such an abrupt volte-face, it was as if they were turning their backs on their past. The resulting album, ‘Plowing Into The Field Of Love’, is just as odd. It’s also the most thrillingly risky thing they could have done.

This, then, is Iceage gleefully torching their legacy and dancing in the ashes. And expanding their horizons hasn’t mellowed them, but made them even more discomforting. ‘Forever’ is warped cow-punk, with wonky strings and ghostly horns as frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt – who has grown his hair and bought an overcoat – leers “I always had the sense I was split in two”. ‘Against The Moon’ comes on like an even dourer These New Puritans, a weird death-waltz of mournful brass and soft piano. There’s something so deliciously wrong about hearing these usually graceful instruments and sounds turned wicked in Iceage’s hands, like being read a nursery rhyme by Jack The Ripper.

Elsewhere, both the sinewy, Sonic Youth-like ‘Simony’ and the whirlpool thrash of ‘Let It Vanish’ are dark and dank, and there’s something harrowing to find Iceage, who’ve for so long lashed out at all around them, cowering as the walls close in. ‘Cimmerian Shade’, with its harsh, jagged riffs and wheezy vocals, is a claustrophobic dirge while the stuttering ‘Glassy Eyed, Dormant And Veiled’ is a moribund swamp of otherworldly horns and guitar crescendos as Elias moans “Father can you hear me? My head is pounding”. For some churlish souls, such a shift might be tantamount to treachery, but Iceage don’t need brute force to carry on kicking against the pricks.