In 2013, the Copenhagen-based punk band Iceage released their breakthrough album “You’re Nothing,” a release that was critically acclaimed by music critics the world over.
Last month, the Danish band surprised the same writers by releasing “The Lord’s Favorite,” the leading single from their new album “Plowing Into the Field of Love.” The band recorded the song alongside the rest of their album at Silence Studios in Koppom, Sweden this past February. The country-tinged single is a departure from the band’s earlier sound, which bordered on hardcore punk. Although the song came as a shock to the music press, the band insists that its motives for releasing the song did not include surprising anyone. To them, “The Lord’s Favorite” is a song just like the rest of theirs.
“I guess it wasn’t planned to write a country song. When we did it the codes were there. Elias wrote the basic codes and then I was like, ‘Oh, that kind of is a country song.’ It just kind of sounded like that, we didn’t plan to surprise anyone,” Johan Wieth, the band’s lead guitarist, said in a phone interview with Seeds.
“The Lord’s Favorite” is not unique in its new direction. Those familiar with the band will note the new album features different sounds than those Iceage have previously employed.. Certain songs on the album, like “On My Fingers” and “Forever,” feature new instrumental arrangements like pianos and horns which were uncommon in the band’s music leading up to this album.
“We just, you know, definitely got excited. It was just how it was supposed to be to expand a little bit. You know, I think everything complements each other enough. The songs were being done and we weren’t really aware of it; they were made for those kinds of instrumentations,” Wieth explained.
The members of Iceage are committed to doing what comes naturally; they are not concerned about what people think about their new sound.
“It was kind of a natural progression. I don’t think that we’re a punk band now, you know; I don’t think we’ve been for a while,” Wieth said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of thought put into the change. It was just what we came up with. Nothing was spoken about. People were expecting something that was the same, and usually a lot of people just want the same. But that doesn’t really have much interest for people who make music.”
The band’s songwriting process is fluid and natural. They are uninterested in providing a list of influences, unlike other bands. “There’s no formula, no type of music that inspires. It’s not just music that forms what we do,” said Wieth.
“Plowing Into the Field of Love” is a new direction for the band lyrically as well. Elias Rønnenfelt, Iceage’s lead singer, took new interest in the band’s lyric-writing process.
“Elias wrote all the lyrics. On the first two records we all kind of chipped in for lyrical material. I think he got more excited about writing; he found something in writing. He’s gotten more into reading books the last couple of years. And I think he found some interest in making something that wasn’t completely undecipherable. The last couple records were a bit encrypted. He went to Berlin to write some of the lyrics. He wrote the remainder in Sweden. He keeps notebooks and has scattered pieces; he’s been putting them together. It was quite scattered but this time I think Elias had more of an idea of how to do it than the other times,” Wieth said.
“There’s no red line that runs through the album lyrically. It is what you make it.,” Wieth said when asked about common themes that run through the album.
One thing listeners will note is the number of religious allusions in the album. From the single’s title, to other tracks like “Simony,” these kinds of references occur much more frequently on this album than in their previous work.
“The religious references- at any time that we’ve made- have pretty much nothing to do with religion. None of us are religious in any way. “The Lord’s Favorite” is not about God. Using religion and god is very powerful as a symbol. They’re big words even though they mean nothing. It holds a lot of meaning so we can use it for a lot of things,” Wieth said.
Some of the material on the album is older, but the band felt that it finally fit it in with the new songs that they were writing. Wieth cited “Abundant Living” as an example of this.
“It’s an old song; it was written some time ago. It fitted really well with some of the new songs. Also, the instrumentation made it very compatible with the rest of the album.”
Their newest release is a statement about where the band is now, pulling into account the past and the present. Old songs have met new influences. “It’s something very different for me than it is for you. It’s a lot of emotion. It is what it is. It’s our emotions, really,” Wieth said about the album as a whole.
A new instrumental style in addition to this revamped lyric-writing process will sound new, yet familiar to Iceage fans. The combination of the two leads to longer, more complex songs. On their first album, “New Brigade,” the longest track was barely over three minutes long. This time around, there is not a song shorter than two and a half minutes.
Iceage will be touring in support of the album in the upcoming months. They will be playing at The Slowdown in Omaha on October 24. “Plowing Into the Field of Love” is slated for an American release October 7 on Matador Records.