*** (out of four)
When young Danish punk band Iceage played the Empty Bottle for the first time two years ago, the show – a bloody, 20-minute thrash of an event – ended with singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt descending the stage and stumbling out through the crowd in a daze. It was a striking gesture and an emblematic moment: In a genre of stage dives and pure releases of energy, Iceage are a band that is just as often caught in a cathartic stagger as it is in a whirlwind of rage.
That feeling is even more strongly present on the band's sophomore effort, “You're Nothing,” which sees the group transitioning from a surprisingly mature and confident DIY success story into a fully formed musical presence. While there are occasional moments of pure, frantic energy on the album, it's more a taut, brooding piece of post-punk art than a reckless statement of hardcore bravado, its guitars and bass surprisingly rich and heavy.
Songs like the slowly building “Morals” and the spare, death march instrumental “Interlude” are thrilling but are probably not going to whip anyone into a moshing, fist-pumping frenzy. The jangling guitars that sneakily open several songs, including the album's swirling, punishing highlight “Awake,” could pass, in the first few licks, for something straight off mainstream '70s radio.
But while this depth makes Iceage interesting, it can also cause their music to drag at times. A few more salvos like the metal-inflected “It Might Hit First” and shoegaze-goes-punk closer “You're Nothing” might add some welcome energy; the guttural Danish of “Rodfaestet” provides a spark that's often missing in Rønnenfelt's deadpan English vocal delivery. Iceage may not be the band that makes everyone want to jump into the mosh pit, but for those who are already there they offer a welcome release of tension.
In concert: April 10 at Empty Bottle
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
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