Around 12:30 a.m., in the cramped basement bar that is Home Sweet Home on the Lower East side, the Danish punks of Iceage take the stage to a packed house. Two years since they were first introduced to the U.S., the band members look more like young adults now than the scrawny teenagers that toured the country in 2011. With their sophomore album, You’re Nothing, on the horizon, one thing that hasn’t changed is the dejected look on vocalist Elias Bender Ronnenfelt’s face as he sways about the stage, barking into the microphone with razor-edged guitars and thunderous drums lingering behind him song after song.
Earlier in the night, an art show was held upstairs in the Fig 19 gallery, curated by Iceage “and friends” and titled “Thrown Together.” The art displayed provides an apt backdrop for the music to come. It features a variety of pieces ranging from charcoal drawings, a film projection, propaganda-style posters and old band T-shirts all undoubtedly created with the dark and abrasive tone of the music in mind. Downstairs, Dream Affair impressively kicks off the music portion of the evening with an industrial, post-punk sound incorporating a blasting drum machine, synths and occasionally mixing in a violin. The following performance comes from Pharmakon, who generates room-shattering, apocalyptic marches from tables of equipment while she screams into a microphone and throws herself around an enthralled audience.
Iceage enters the stage through the crowd led by security as if the fans were likely to maul the band with photo and autograph requests. Bender Ronnenfelt appears very focused as he hands out copies of the night’s setlist to drummer Dan Kjaer Nielsen, bassist Jakob Tvilling Pless and guitarist Johan Surrballe Wieth, discussing it with business-like attention ahead of the chaos of unintelligible sound that ensues. Opening with recently released “Ecstasy,” per usual, the singer begins the set with a guitar in his hands and mans it for the first third of the set. There are no signs of the blood and violence that characterized the group’s earlier shows, but the crowd is no less engaged, albeit dealing with the annoyance of constant budging of people squeezing their way back and forth from the restroom.
When Bender Ronnefelt sets down the guitar and assumes his role as lead man with microphone in hand, the show really begins. Ripping down chords from the walls, swinging on the bannister, grabbing onlookers—Iceage makes its songs hardly recognizable from one to the other, but the vitriol with which each is carried out remains consistent throughout the 40-minute set. As the band breaks into New Brigade closer “You’re Blessed,” the audience finally gets the floor moving, shoving each other around as much as the confined space will allow. Once the set is through, the house music immediately sounds; the band quickly disassembles equipment and makes its way out. For these punks from Denmark bent on anger and destruction, an encore doesn’t seem like it would be very fitting.