With a total disregard for starting on time, Iceage show up around twenty-five minutes late, lumber about on stage for a bit before lurching into a few seconds of dissonance, distortion and feedback. Then stopping. And starting again. Man, this is punk rock. Or maybe not – but the kids here love it.
An army of fans at the front kicks off from the outset, moshing manically with just a dash of postmodern irony. There are smiles; joy is etched on every face in the crowd, not the tortured grimaces and angsty snarls of punks from days gone by, as the Danish quartet growl and grind their way through their opening track – new single ‘Ecstasy’ from their well-received second album, ‘You’re Nothing’.
The drummer turns up without his hi-hat but does he care? Not a bit – it gives him a chance to try something fresh. Maybe he’ll discover a new gimmick. After all, he’s not constrained by boundaries, expectations or the accepted way of things, musical or otherwise… even if he does look like the fourth member of an X Factor boy band.
Surely if Simon Cowell put together a punk band, they’d look a little something like this, although this evening they’re doing their utmost to obscure their camera-friendly looks, shuffling onto the stage clad in oversized hoodies with bassist and guitarist skulking in the shadows on the periphery of the stage, and frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt leaving his face partially obscured by his hood through the first couple of songs.
Wielding his axe like a weapon, singer Elias doesn’t so much spit out his vocals as gutterally spew them forth, sounding a bit like Mark E. Smith, a bit like Ian Curtis but angrier and shoutier. That’s not to say you can decipher what words he’s forcing out. You can’t, on the whole, and that’s a shame – but it’s very ruddy clear he means them.
By the third song, the crowd feels it too. The band of revelers down at the front lap up the intensity of the austere lad’s pulsating performance, and in such close proximity to the object of their adoration, they grope him like zombies, reaching for his hands, his chest, his face. They paw him, like he’s some sort of messiah. Or maybe they’re just drunk. After all, they’ve had an extra half hour of drinking time. And then the stage diving and crowd surfing starts…
You want to be able call the noise they make cacophonous – four angry young men influenced by hardcore - but it’s not. The gothic, dirge-like vocals veil some – at times – melodic riffs and tuneful guitar hooks and the sound is often measured. Always intense, in the tradition of punk, but not always ear-bleedingly, head-spinningly fast and loud.
There’s a definite, palpable buzz about these boys and if they continue the way they’re heading, they’re set to become a valuable commodity. Having courted controversy with their use of fascist iconography, it’s certainly securing the youthful foursome column inches – and that’s something of which Simon Cowell himself would be proud. There’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Words by Kim Francis
Photos by Mark Ashby