Double Play: Hail! Hornet & Iceage

Two reviews for the price of none!

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson


New Brigade

Remember when Refused released their album Shape Of Punk To Come and how we all thought that punk rock and hardcore was going to be okay. The sound of the future was an angry meld of the two genres with just enough rusted metal lining the surface to keep things modern. Well, sadly, the world wasn’t ready for this future so we ended up with tough guy bad metal and “metalcore” not the sweet future that seemed so close. Danish band Iceage never got that memo and thusly has given us New Brigade, an album that could end up defining the new future of punk rock. This future is murky and dense, filled with odd tidbits and details all working together. In cinematic terms, Iceage is like Blade Runner and Metropolis spliced into one weird ass grim movie. 

Iceage is exciting because they gave created their own world to play in. Sure they understand the ideas of punk rock, but they layer their music in a way that reminds me more of No Wave. Think of the band Suicide having a fucked up baby with The Buzzcocks. Then allowing said baby to be raised by Black Flag and the band Confused. New Brigade is twelve songs in twenty-four minutes that speak to greater musicianship than most bands who vomit out large epic slabs of music. Iceage are all about taking pieces from other worlds and building their rickety little ship. It shouldn’t sail, nothing built from so much should meld together into it’s own sturdy construction. Iceage does this, they simply understand what the true backbeat of punk rock is, the creative energy and heart that been obscured for so long by sped up blues riffs and bad pop tunes. Iceage know that punk is a state of mind, a way of attacking music and leaving a black eye in the face of the status quo.

New Brigadekicks off with “White Rune”, a song built on a pounding bass line and a repetitive military rhythm.. It feels like a Clash song but sounds like an experimental noise band. That kind of juxtaposition flows through the entire record. The title track features buzzing guitars playing quickly but without menace. There’s a great sadness to what Iceage does that makes New Brigade so much more compelling than random bursts of anger. They also love tension. Every song here has conflicting guitar lines crashing into each other. While the drums play to one side of the action and the bass to another. The resulting music creates that feeling right before your car crashes and then the elation when it doesn’t. Iceage don’t just give you No Wave influenced punk rock, they challenge your complacency and that is what punk rock has always been about.

Holding everything down are the vocals, which are haunting and desperate. Imagine Echo And The Bunnymen as sung through a suicidal teenager raging to be heard. At times the vocals seem to just be rants, at others singing that longs for some kind of release. They never blend or compliment the music, but rather push through it to create some really wonderful textures. The vocals have a real honesty in them, a sense that they were created as organically as possible. Without rehearsal or continues attempts to get it perfect. Everything on New Brigade has that feel to it. Like Refused, Embrace and Rites Of Spring, this is music that isn’t always easy but always interesting and always carries the true emotional depth and honesty that punk rock was built on.


Hail! Hornet

Disperse The Curse

Relapse Records

Y’know that thing? The thing in your closet or under your bed? The thing that causes the hairs on the back of your neck to rise up when you go into a creepy basement? If that thing, whatever it is, formed a band it might sound like Hail! Hornet. This is a super group made up of members of Buzzo*ven, Weedeater, Beaten Back To Pure, Alabama Thunderpussy and others who decided to form like some Satanic Voltron. Hail! Hornet calls what they do Grime-Metal, and while I’m not big on classifications, this might actually fit. The band’s newest offering, Disperse The Curse, oozes grime; the way the cast of Jersey Shore oozes oil and the wafting smell of loser.

Hail! Hornet is a thoughtful collapse of reason and sanity. The ranting of a madman, the screeching cries from a dark insane asylum mixed with the sleaze and grime of a southern pimp, returning from Hell via a swamp, in order to bring underage wenches to the Devil. Part of it is the production, which is so raw it almost sounds live. If not for the killer guitar trickery that pops up every now and then, Disperse The Curse could have been played live straight into the board. Though steeped in the magic of extreme music, Hail! Hornet has a wonderful understanding of punk rock. I don’t know if the sounds the band captured were on purpose but they have managed to make their instruments sound cruel. This is the first album in a long time that I can really pick out different things happening within each instrument.

I love the bass sound. It’s this filthy, over biased clang that crash like an outboard motor heard through an elevator shaft. The pure weight of the bass holds everything about Hail! Hornet together. The drums echo like they were crafted from garbage cans and old cracked cymbals. Don’t get me wrong; I think that damaged sound is brilliant. The raw energy behind this garbage pail kid rhythm section gives Disperse The Curse its weight, its grooves, and allows the guitars to move in all directions causing all kinds of trouble. You can’t have guitars that swing from ripping solos to plodding doom riffs without a severe back beat to keep it from running off the rails. These songs aren’t just heavy, the have the hang in your head with real weight.

The guitars are this specific blend of feedback and treble that creates tension within the instrument. The riffs and playing make you feel uneasy, as if some invisible force is going to slap the shit out of you. Part of it is the tension between the guitar and bass. They push and pull off each other so well that it becomes nearly too much. Hail! Hornet are smart though and right when the cacophony becomes a burden, they crash in with a killer riff.. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a record that fucks with the listener the way this one does. You have to be willing to ingest the music to finally see what Hail! Hornet is trying to do.

The final rotting cherry on this Parfait of blood and skin are the vocals. They are psychosis, a raging, brutal and harsh psychosis that blends in with the rest of the music’s madness. With each line you can hear the madman whispering just behind you. May I sing my story to you before I pour acid in your eyes? It’s that level of unhinged insanity. I have no idea what the future of Hail! Hornet is, or if something this dark and disturbing has any hope of staying together. If they don’t at least they can brag to the other inmates in the nuthouse how they wrote Disperse The Curse. My world is better for it.