The fourth album by Danish punk upstarts Iceage is a study in sonic evolution, from the abrasive chaos of their debut to their more thoughtful 2018 incarnation. Their progression has been impressive, hopefully staving off the divisive nature that comes with changing direction; sharp turns are likely to perturb subsections of fans, but here the rudder was adjusted early enough that longtime admirers might have seen it coming since album two. Over time, space that has been carved out of the songwriting has given way to the overall density of the lyrical content, meaning that while the delivery might not be as urgent on Beyondless, it lands with a new degree of clarity.
Nevertheless, the album opens with all guns blazing, as "Hurrah" rattles off on people's insatiable, sometimes celebratory, relationship with violence, and does so in a sardonic explosion of gratuity. Leading straight into "Painkiller," the most prominent example of who Iceage are here; it's catchy, it's bombastic, and once it has its hooks in it won't let go, although all of this is still underpinned by Rønnenfelt's signature drawl.
The rest of the record plays out with an abundance of dramatic flair -- even if the pacing gradually reduces toward the back half -- riddling the run time with the slow angst of "Catch It," the uneasy cabaret of "Showtime," or the call-and-response-baiting closer "Beyondless." It would be easy to lament the raw energy of previous Iceage records, but if they had continued in that vein they would have risked obscurity by now; instead, they're a band who refuse to stop moving and exploring their sound, emerging every time with a more refined approach to the music. That they can achieve this with integrity should be celebrated, except maybe this time with a bottle of red wine instead of cheap beer.