It is a truly daunting task to try to say something coherent about the band Iceburn. This band spanned 1991 through 2000. The lineup changed dramatically overly this time. This mostly involved adding more people and changing the name to The Iceburn Collective. The stylistic change is the most surprising. Almost certainly no band has undergone such a transformation. They started as an old school metal/punk band, but ended their career as free jazz improvisational group.
Listening to their first album Firon is quite a surprise to me. I know that they sounded like this back in the early days, but I’m so used to the later stuff that it is shocking. When I got into this group I didn’t start with this album, and it is probably a good thing. There is some cool rhythmic and harmonic stuff, but for the most part this album doesn’t blow me away or anything. I think the best part of the album is its diversity. There are some touching acoustic parts (Soulstice) and some almost comical parts (Irish Jig) mixed with some classical metal (and not so classical with their metal reinterpretation of Take Five).
The next two albums Hephaestus and Poetry of Fire actually do get me quite excited. They are stylistically more along the lines of the first album, but certainly the sound gets more avant garde. It is a lo-fi underground metal sound. Tonally and rhythmically the songs start to get more convoluted and complicated. Neither of these were my first either, but I’d definitely have stuck the band out if I started with these. My reaction as I relisten is that I really want to spend a lot more time with these in the near future.
Then we move on to Meditavolutions. This is officially as The Iceburn Collective. This was my first album of theirs. To me it is the perfect one. It sits balanced right on the edge of their older classic metal and the newer big band, free jazz, improv stuff. It somehow incorporates brilliantly all these non-traditional instruments and sounds into a metal album. The whole thing is mind blowing in composition as well. It is a musical palindrome. This means that it is the same played forwards or backwards (OK, not exactly, but it is intended to feel this way). If you have one takeaway from this post it should be to get this amazing album!
With the next album The Polar Bear Suite we start to get much more abstract and away from metal. Saxophone and other traditional jazz band sounds (bass clarinet solo anyone?!) and riffs are predominant. I’ll just lump all releases after this one as getting more and more towards free jazz. Now surprisingly these are actually really great modern jazz albums despite coming from a band that started as metal. So even though most metal fans will probably have no interest in these later albums, the more open minded ones might find a way into the jazz world through these releases.
I truly love these guys. It is sad that they broke up, and I continue to listen to them to this day. I also follow some of the members in their newer endeavors (see Eagle Twin). Somehow this band has flown under the radar, yet they are one of the greats. They made really innovative music and you should check them out if you haven’t before.
Here’s a sample: