No matter what musical experience you have, Iceage’s Plowing Into The Field Of Love will leave you feeling strange and confused. Nowhere does the Danish post-hardcore band strive to fit into the context of pretty much any musical legacy, contemporary or otherwise; there are no great references to artists past or present, high-strung sonic allegory or rock-opera metaphors. The record simply is, existing in its own bizarre universe with no strings holding it up, and maybe that’s why it”s so intensely satisfying to listen to.
The out-of-breath, rarely-metered ramblings of frontman Elias Ronnenfelt are a contentious point in the record’s early stretch. Despite being a Scandinavian native, the lyrics are in English, and the only hint that this isn’t a native speaker preaching in the listener’s ear is his totally rabid slur, a sloppy numbness to his entire delivery that could either be visionary poetic musings or horribly drunken slush. Even when the words are so spittle-soaked as to be incomprehensible, what is so striking about Ronnenfelt’s voice is his massive range of emotion. Like stopping to listen to a blanket-clad schizophrenic, much of the band’s emotional pallet is derived from Ronnenfelt’s cracking vocal chords, ragged intake of breath and totally ravaged lyrics.
Instrumentally, Plowing Into The Field Of Love strikes an interesting path through hardcore proving grounds like Fugazi and Q And Not U and comes out the other side with more than a passing resemblance to Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. There’s a western twang to much of the album’s material, particularly in the phenomenal drum work on tracks like “Let It Vanish”, whose runtime plays out like a violent stagecoach robbery. Fans of Rick Froberg’s work in Brooklyn-based Obits will appreciate the kind of moody, steam-engine Americana that Iceage occasionally employ, even if it is a bit confusing coming from Nordic instruments.
The pure range of sounds exhibited in Plowing… keep the record from sagging under the weight of Ronnenfelt’s maniacal expunging. The oddly violin-esque plinking on “Abundant Living” makes a solitary appearance to clash with the out-of-tune lyrics; elsewhere, the pure cacophony of guitar discord is what cuts through the terrifying mix.
This isn’t your everday record offering—it’s completely unique and unforgivably original. There is a real reason why no one has tread this kind of musical territory before, but that makes the process of Iceage’s self-discovery so much more bloody fun to observe.