For its past two albums, Iceage crafted bombardments of records, wrapping a post-hardcore rage around cold, harsh lyrics that conveyed a wounded and cynical view of the world. Now though, with its newest album, Plowing into the Field of Love, Iceage has become something else entirely.
It’s evident from the opening track “On My Fingers,” a five-minute-plus track, which is the longest song the band has ever made. It is a slow, staggering song, overlaid with piano and singer Elias Rønnenfelt’s more annunciated vocals. It has an almost waltz-like quality to it, and the more metaphorical lyrics give it a heavier, more burdensome quality. With this song, the band emphasizes just how much they have opened up sonically, exploring avenues that would have seemed impossible just a year ago.
There’s the country punk flair of “The Lord’s Favorite,” with its snappy guitar line and the band actually injecting some humor into their work. An even more pronounced love of the Gothic and Nick Cave is smeared everywhere on the album, opening dimensions in the likes of “How Many” and “Stay.” The band creates an honest to goodness baroque ballad with “Against the Moon.” It not only works within the album but manages to be one of the greatest songs the band has ever written.
The fury of Iceage’s old sound is still existent, but it’s more interesting in the way in which the band has made it into something more. “Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled” has the same tension and whiplash quality that their previous material had but stretched out and accented by trumpet blares that add anger to the track. “Simoney” is the only track that sounds remotely like their old style, but the song is more refined and focused than anything they have written before.
The album reaches its apex with “Forever.” Plowing into the Field of Love’s lofty centerpiece, the track is an encapsulation of everything the band has chosen to explore with this new album. Over the track’s five minutes, the band works with tension, by going into brief build-ups with the guitars and drums before falling back down again and letting the song unfurl slowly. Violins start to come in, which manage to bring both a soothing and tenser quality to the track. By the time the song hits the build-up, the drop swells into a cacophony of distorted guitars, violins, trumpets and Rønnenfelt’s desperate pleas.
The album ends with the title track, a song that manages to combine some of the prettiest guitar riffs and melodies the band has written with a desperate and damaged mood. It is the proper summation of what Plowing into the Field of Love is — an album that proved the band could expand their sound, cramming every style, every influence they can into their songs, trying to become more than what they were. The result is a messy collision of despair, anger, sadness and even momentary beauty. It is memorizing, and possibly Iceage’s best album to date.