Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Icecross - 1973 - Icecross


01. Wandering Around   
02. Solution   
03. A Sad Mans Story   
04. Jesus Freaks   
05. 1999   
06. Scared   
07. Nightmare   
08. The End

Axel Einarsson (guitar, vocals)
Ómar Óskarsson (bass, vocals)
Ásgeir Óskarsson (drums, vocals)

Copenhagen in the autumn of 1972, the crucible for Icelandic hippies, where the Free State of Kristiania held the promise of a better world where everyone was equal, providing according to available resources, partaking as needed. We celebrated the one year anniversary of Kristiania gathered around a great bonfire and promised to turn the Free State into a model of cooperation, togetherness and solidarity – a sort of primal Christianity.
The club Revolution in Copenhagen was the place to listen to live music, all the latest and freshest. Usually it was rather bland stuff, I found, but the there appeared this amazing rock band, so amazing that we were left gaping and staring – Icecross – hard as nails and supertight. When the boys had finished playing they mingled with the audience, having a beer or perhaps lighting up a pipe. It turned out they were Icelanders living in Kristiania with big dreams – fully justified judging from their performance that night.
For several reasons Icecross never made it. My understanding was that they got tired of the struggle abroad and wanted to go back home. They did, however manage to cut a record bearing the name of the group. A superb record I listened to a lot, until it gave way to newer music – lying in the stack but enjoying short-lived revivals off and on over the next few years until it suffered the inevitable fate: too scratched and contaminated with booze to be playable.
Decades later, searching for old music, I started to come accross the record here and there on collectors' lists and for no small change – one wanted to buy it for $200 and another to sell it for $500. People were starting to talk about “the legendary and mysterious Icecross” but there were far fewer sellers than potential buyers.
As time went more and more copies started cropping up and further investigation revealed that the record had been reissued in various places. One owner offered for sale a record which had been published in Holland, another had a copy from Italy, and suddenlty someone was advertising a CD made in Korea. Everything strictly illegal but showing the widespread call for this marvelllous recording.
The Internet revitalized the sale of Icecross. At the time of this writing, a simple Google search reveals at least five different bootleg publishers which bears witness to the place accorded to Icecross in the history of rock music.

_“I lost my love yesterday. She made up her mind and went away. Left me with pain in my heart. No she will never come back to me…never…I’m so lonely.”_

Not even 300,000 people live in Iceland, so remarking about the lack of bands from this island would be quite asinine, though compared to their immense neighbor Greenland, Iceland was a veritable hotbed. The foursome is one of the more well-known bands from this area, which really isn’t saying much ‘cause their sole release will still run you around $400 in the end. Musically, Icecross play heavy rock that one reviewer compared to Black Sabbath, but this judgment is so off the mark I almost think the guy impossibly never heard the British quartet. Moreover, the frigid three-piece’s style is more anomalous in its simplicity; heavy, bordering on wild at times, yet very lightly progressive for a musically untight band, and the malnourished production really does nothing to aid the cause.

Despite the aid of three reputable sources, a discrepancy of the year (1972-73) this lp was originally released still remains, but what’s one year (or even two months: Dec-Jan.). I don’t think the extra time would’ve improved on this much. Kicking off the lp is the strange “Solution”, a vocally-repetitive and somewhat downtrodden episode with some of the weirdest and discordant soloing I can remember, to the point where I can’t quite tell yet if guitarist Axel Einarsson is any good. “A Sad Man’s Story” is the loneliness and melancholy which borne the lyrics under the title; a heartfelt tale lightly strummed and tinkling sadly with piano while the dejected vocals of either Axel or Omar Oskarsson complete the wounded undertow. An absolute antipode to the woe is the follow-up “Jesus Freaks”, perhaps the most prominent and heaviest on the album. Harking solos cry over semi-doomy riffs that are infiltrated by feral drum work that plays like a jigsaw puzzle launched into the air, making way for lungs now severe and wailing compared to the initial tracks. If there’s one thing you’ll remember about this lp, it’s the chorus “We believe in Jesus, we believe in us, we believe in ourselves…” “Wandering Around” has a definite Zeppelin “Rock and Roll” zing to it up to and including the short psychedelic drum solo at the song’s core and sounds like something the Stray Cats would cover in the future. The lightly echoed vocals are at their zenith here. From there, “1999” inharmoniously blasts to life with a keening solo, very dissonant riffs, and some pretty awful singing. Becoming more impressed with the percussion of Asgeir Oskarsson, I began looking forward to his next barbaric drum rant, which would take place about six seconds into the subjugated, yet oddly vibrant “Scared”. A straightforward punk riff opens the hasty “Nightmare”. An untight drum, solo, and riff ensemble runs chaotically rampant here, sounding more like a bunch of session musicians going bonkers, but reigning it in is “The End”, the rolling-paced finale with perhaps the most fitting vocals of the lp. Lyrically, there’s lots to be desired, but since I can only write lyrics in, oh, one language, who am I to talk?

The highlights: the sudden changes in musical mood that is owed greatly to song placement. The untamed sticks of Asgeir that can wilt nearby vegetation. The solos that solidified as time passed. The lowlights: the unpredictable vox that sound impressive one minute and like they dragged someone in off the street the next. The musicians individually (save the vocals) can hold their own to the point of impression, but as a group seem unhinged. The production is quite flimsy, if not transparent. All in all, not a bad album; maybe a tad above-average, but nothing one is going to parade around town with.

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