Denmark is known more for giving us Legos and those blue tins of butter cookies than it is for bands. Mercyful Fate stemmed from the Scandinavian country, as did Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and alternative bands Mew and the Raveonettes.
Now it has a punk band with a buzz in Iceage, which launched in 2011 with "New Brigade," the sound of 18-year-olds blurring the line between hardcore's raw fury and post-punk's arty ambitions. For a punk band, they didn't look so bad either.
They were cast as "teenage punks full of anger and anxiety" and even "the saviors of punk," the kind of accolades that excite people while also creating expectations sure to be quashed. When they came to these shores that summer -- including two shows here at The Shop -- curiosity was mixed with a readiness to knock them down.
On Iceage's side was that its members were cocky kids who grew up together, playing together as early as 13, and didn't feel like they had anything to prove.
"No, not really," guitarist Johan Surrballe Wieth says in a phone interview, en route to Denver. "I guess we had to prove ourselves to ourselves, but not really anyone else. That first tour was kind of like a test and we passed ... exemplary."
Trudging back and forth through the States, playing for violent, thrashing crowds didn't teach them much they didn't already know, he says.
"I don't think we learned more about playing for an audience. I think we just learned more about playing with each other. And we developed, yeah, as musicians and as friends."
If there was a second test, it was the follow-up record, "You're Nothing," which also gets another E for exemplary. More rage, more sonic heft, more poetics from desperate-sounding frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt. And more glowing reviews.
Per the guitarist, there was no fear among these young punks of a sophomore slump.
"There was no pressure," he says. "We had more expectations of ourselves. I think we all agree that we fulfilled them."
What he won't do is divulge in any self-analysis of how the band's matured with the second album, and that fits with the band's reputation of swatting away interview questions. (In a recent interview with Philadelphia Weekly, the singer hung up after five minutes because the questions weren't "interesting.")
"You would have an easier time than I would," he said politely, dismissively, about the albums.
He has slightly more to say about the recording process.
"We had a similar approach, but we were more experienced. We didn't change anything. It was recorded over the same time span as the first one."
Mr. Ronnenfelt's fury, which is largely buried in the chaos, isn't aimed against governments or pushing causes. It's more internal, inspired, he's said, by French writers Georges Bataille and Jean Genet.
Most are along the line of this verse from "It Might Hit First": "There's a restless fear/A vicious change/Tomorrow's tears/A distant light/From an orchid's glow/Seems to be somewhere."
Still, controversy has swirled around the band, stemming from the singer's drawings that have depicted Klan-like characters and the use of Nordic runes, which have been used by white power groups.
"I can address it as we have 1 million times before," the guitarist says sternly. "There's nothing to that. We're not racist. We never were. We never will be."
The guitarist says he generally avoids reading the band's press, good or bad.
"I don't know if any of the others do. I don't. I mean, my mother calls and tells me sometimes what's going on, but I don't read them. I read the bad ones, every now and then that's kind of fun."
Punk bands traditionally have either flamed out (a la Sex Pistols), held to their basic aesthetic (Ramones) or found ways to stretch the music (Clash).
Mr. Wieth doesn't have a sense of where the band goes from here.
"We are where we are now, and we might drastically change, and we might implode. I guess only time can tell."music
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576.