Iceage returns coldblooded, unstoppable with ‘Vendetta’

Photo of Vendetta Iceage, Mexican Summer
Mexican Summer/Courtesy

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

On its latest single, Copenhagen punk rock band Iceage arrives in the midst of a storm.

Released Feb. 17 ahead of Seek Shelter, the band’s first LP for Mexican Summer, “Vendetta” channels the band’s thunderous, unpredictable art punk sound into a hazy bar crawl with grooves full of charisma that bubbles to the surface with an irresistible sheen. 

Produced by Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3, the track sounds like Iceage at its most dizzying. While the band’s previous single The Holding Hand” was all restrained, slow-burning nihilism, “Vendetta” deals in jangly, upbeat energy with woozy, towering rock production that seeks to disorient and overwhelm. It’s the rough and rowdy sound of a heavily intoxicated night out, the darker cousin to the drunken revelry that is “The Lord’s Favorite,” another standout Iceage track.

A primal rhythm section breathes life into the song before the drums settle into a commanding stomp and sway as roaring, buzzsaw guitars lay out the destruction. As the song moves into full swing, a horn section joins the stampede and adds to the spacious sound, resulting in an atmosphere that feels guttural but sounds lush in the most sinister of ways. Frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s typically Draculian vocals are cold and clear in the mix, accompanied by blown-out backing vocals in the chorus. The band sounds indestructible, like a looming force of nature. 

In a press release, Rønnenfelt said of the track, “Crime is the undercurrent that runs through everything. If you don’t see it, you’re not looking. In its invincible politics, it is the glue that binds it all together. ‘Vendetta’ is an impartial dance along the illicit lines of infraction.”

Lyrically, the song rails against the establishment, detailing the warpath to come. “Tired of misbehaving/ Call those shots upon those pricks, we’re fixing to skin ’em/ Every trickster knows there’s an onslaught/ And every city’s flooded with cocaine,” Rønnenfelt cries in the opening verse, fleshing out his bleak worldview with urgency. He’s on a roll, dropping brash lines about “life in the trenches of a Ponzi scheme to come” and hurling insults like “Cutthroat contract jackleg wildflower” with style and no remorse. As Rønnenfelt sings, “Meddle into interest where business you got none/ See yourself deemed a stressor/ Every man is someone’s successor,” the call to action is clear: The masses must “cock the hammer, tuck it in.” People must seize their own social mobility. Iceage is coming.

There’s menace at the heart of “Vendetta,” but the track feels more proud than full of rage. It’s a coldblooded manifesto heightened by the tasteful gothic flare of Rønnenfelt’s vocal delivery and the song’s constant flirtation with elements of Southern music, jazz and punk rock, a far cry from the hardcore, full-throttle sound of the band’s early days, moving beyond by-the-books post-punk toward something greater. Though “Vendetta” is only one stop on the band’s inevitable ascent, Iceage feels right at home in the heart of the chaos. 

Vincent Tran covers music. Contact him at [email protected].