It’s rare to see any band get the amount of press that Denmark’s Iceage has received for their first US tour. Demand for the band has been through the roof, with shows piling up including three (four?) in Boston and four in New York, including supporting gigs for Fucked Up. and Cult of Youth in the last week. Every review I’ve seen for the band has been all praise. WNYC said the Danish teens are “musically beyond their tender years,” Vice says their album New Brigade is “everything a good punk album should be.” And the Onion AV Club thinks they’re the second coming of Refused.
The Iceage phenomenon is not entirely out of nowhere. After a decade of folk punk and endless genre revivals, punk and hardcore fans have been desperate for something new and real to come along and reinvigorate their favorite genres. Over the last couple years the aptly mocking-named Mysterious Guy Hardcore has filled this void, with a few good bands like Fucked Up, Sex Vid, and Mind Eraser, all quietly determined to present their music as not merely punk, but a careful and cryptic statement on philosophy and mysticism. Most of the time the mystery is little more than a shell game for publicity and merchandise sales.
It’s likely Iceage is simply following in this trend; dressing up their sloppy but unique punk in Nordic Runes and Fred Perrys in order to keep their audience’s interest piqued. The hypemachine has come to expect such obfuscation, doing little or nothing to decode. This almost feels like the right way to treat the band’s imagery–intriguing, but ultimately meaningless aesthetics. At least, it would feel that way if that imagery weren’t consistently and overtly fascist.
Playing with fire and switchblades, they dress in crude Klansmen outfits in this video for New Brigade. Also visible at 1:30 is guitar player Johan’s tattoo for fascist band Death in June.
The Klan imagery in singer Elias’ zine 188.8.131.52 (available for download here) goes a bit further, depicting a Klansman with an Iron Cross logo on one page, and several Klansman restraining and presumably murdering an unknown individual on the next.
Another page depicts impending race war, with a mob of skinheads, armed with knives and crucifixes on the march on one end, and shrouded Islamist figures on the other. One of Iceage‘s favorite symbols, a switchblade, points business-end towards the Islamists. Notice that masked skinhead in the foreground wears the geometric logo that appears on Elias’ blog, as is the Klansmen on the above page.
The counterposition of a white mob and aetherial Islamists seems the closest to Iceage making a political statement. The tension between Muslim immigrant populations and the European Right has been increasingly ugly over the last several years, and this page seems more like a fantasy out of mind of an EDL member than anything else.
Without analysis of their lyrics (which I haven’t been able to find online), direct confrontation of the band members, and possibly arduous decryption of the pages written in Runes in Elias’ zine, it cannot be stated with certainty that Iceage has fascist sympathies or if they are, as the hypemachine intends to portray them, just angry Danish high school kids. It’s certainly the case, however, that their fetishization of fascist imagery is a disgusting erasure of the history of White Supremacy’s violence at worst, and at best, sadly ignorant and creepy.
The music may hold up on its own, but media fantasy about cryptically angry young aryans are certainly a huge part of the package. Cvlt Nation even predicts Iceage as the beginning of a “new age of punk.” Hopefully their prediction, along with the Onion AV Club‘s comparison of New Brigade (click to download album from Mediafire) to The Shape of Punk to Come, is off, otherwise we can look forward to a decade of nihilistic marketing schemes in the guise of punk rock.