June 19, 2011

Album Review: Iceage's New Brigade

The future of punk is in our youth, and since youth culture is synonymous with the genre, it's no surprise that Denmark's Iceage are being hailed as one of the most promising hopes to keep it thriving. The group of high school dropouts is obligatorily fueled by angst and calamity, and on their debut album, New Bridage, they crash into the music world with chaotic post-punk riffs, melodious hardcore, reverb and the proverbial sound of violence handmade to match their high-intensity stage antics. It's a formula for success we've already seen before, but since none of the more recent like-minded bands are around (in the '90s, it was Sweden's Refused and in the mid-2000s, to a more juvenile extent, it was Be Your Own PET,) Iceage are exactly what the punk scene needs to remind the kids of what a little fresh perspective and raw power can do to keep things interesting. New Brigade alongside Iceage's DIY marketing is built on a foundation of anarchic doom (See: the pagan logo album art, their fiery self-made music video, the gothic undertones in their promo images) and while on the surface it may seem like an easy bid to replicate the morbid post-punk fashion of Joy Division (which is half true considering the band's name is likely a hat tip to their track, "Ice Age,") these teens sound hellbent on making sure it doesn't come off that way.

The greatest proof of that is how sloppy and devoid of experience Iceage play their instruments. The melodies are there ("Broken Bone," "Never Return," "You're Blessed"), but more often than not, they're fragmented, rigid and at times, lack any sort of linearly cohesiveness ("New Brigade," "Total Drench," "Eyes.") If it weren't for lead singer, Elias R√łnnenfelt’s brash vocals filling in the blanks between the empty spaces or adjunct noise, connecting the dots would be a daunting fete. The lo-fidelity nature of New Brigade isn't much of a help to any of this, either, as it furthers Iceage's plight of treble-heavy muddiness over the course of 25 minutes, and as far as I can tell, there isn't any sort of political or social agenda in the band's lyrics, or so much a call to arms of any kind. However, if you think for one second this means Iceage and New Brigade has failed its purpose, then you're missing the point.

It's very much a wreck of an album, but it's a genuine wreck not forced by purpose or one that sees Iceage folding to perfectionism. For all their mistakes and flippant, erratic ratchet that may not be initially be understood, Iceage fearlessly sink their teeth in using inexperience to their advantage on New Brigade to create an album so uncategorizable, it can only be called punk, and in turn remind us that the youth are and always will be the shape of what's to come.

Iceage's Youth Brigade will be released June 21, 2011 on What's Your Rupture? Records.

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