Ice Ages – Nullify (2019)

About a week before the writing of this present review, Richard Lederer (a.k.a. Protector of Summoning) released Nullify, the newest album from his Electro-Industrial/EBM project Ice Ages after 11 years of inactivity, on Bandcamp as somewhat of a minor surprise with this resuscitation only announced a few days before release.

Nullify features by far the most “clean” and “modern” sound production-wise of any Ice Ages effort to date. While this makes for a much “easier” listen compared to the rather dense, claustrophobic sound previously characteristic of this project, the synth tones utilized in some instances here sound perilously close to the textures one could imagine coming across in a different context amongst 21st century “Top 40” or “EDM” production styles.(It just occurred to the present author that much of this material could specifically be easily re-imagined as a Justin Timberlake track).

One of the most common detractions labeled against previous Ice Ages efforts is that of the lyrics, which even admirers of the earliest classic works of this project such as 1997’s Strike the Ground and 2000’s This Killing Emptiness concede are rather awkward angst fare and ill-fitting to the desolate yet mellifluous futuristic nightmare soundscapes. While there is no significant change in that department here, the appearance of some of Lederer’s Linkin Park-esque vocals from the last couple of Summoning albums is not necessarily a welcome addition to the mix.

As for the actual composition of the music itself besides the exterior timbre and vocal/lyrical content, it is generally quite consonant in the melody department balanced out by harmonic layering (as is always the case with Lederer’s work across all project names), organized in “sweltering” cycling song structures as is par for the course for both Ice Ages and nowadays Summoning. However such transitions and construction patterns are way more “obvious” here even more so in the manner of Pop music, and the melodies themselves are generally not as strong or memorable as past work despite their acceptably palpable in the moment nature. The atmosphere conveyed also seems to depart entirely from the general “grimdark” surrealist electro-dystopia of past works, and while the cover images suggest a more “spacy” oriented approach that is not really reflected in the music which generally seems to evoke more of a contemporary “neon” techno-urban ennui sensation in the manner of modern Synthpop revival than anything.

Overall, the music contained within Nullify is an acceptable and competent execution of late-2010’s Electropop stylings, despite some of the production choices making it potentially difficult to digest for many listeners around here. However, by the generally rather high standards of Lederer’s compositional work across previous Summoning, Ice Ages and Die Verbannten Kinder Evas efforts, this is ultimately – at best – a very minor work, and completely unessential.

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15 thoughts on “Ice Ages – Nullify (2019)”

  1. Flying Kites says:

    DMU never made a codex of electro musik from specifically Metal composers? Not to flex the wrong kinda com-poseur.

    1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

      Could you please translate that to English?

      1. We know FK from his comments in the past and he (not to misgender you, maaan) often writes in this kind of shorthand.

        Basically, if we have never come up with a summary of electronica, it’s time.

        There is a lot to cover in this genre, mostly unexceptional dance music and grotty teen angst industrial.

        However, there are some standouts.

        Personally, I think your review is right-on in that there is nothing really stylistically new here, if we look at the parts.

        The whole seems an attempt to knit together 80s industrial, 90s techno, vaporwave, and through a nod or two to 70s ambient, the history of this genre.

        What kills it, as you intuited, is the insistence on using the distorted vocals. These have become the millstone around the neck of outsider music, although once they were visionary.

        He should just sing, at this point, or use a synth vocal. This music is reasonably expressive, so it may not even need a vocal, although I think he likes the sung parts. Maybe those could work in as a string or keyboard part. Dunno. Lots to play with.

        However, this may not be a minor work… it is a pivot point, where the underground looks to recapitulate the past. Black metal took up melodic heavy metal and ambient hardcore and made them into a new voice, and now industrial/electronica is trying to assimilate stuff as different as Killing Joke, Fields of the Nephilim, Lord Wind, dungeon synth, Burzum, Tangerine Dream, Xurious, Kraftwerk, Basil Poledouris, and so on into a new genre.

        I welcome this. The 90s were about trying to get beneath the categories we used to measure our reality and to find the gritty reality underneath; the 2010s and 2020s show us having found that gritty reality and trying to find a way to show the beautiful center of it, the direction in which it will take us && that which it idealizes.

        This one and the Pazuzu are winners… I say put them everywhere.

        1. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

          I am indeed a “him”.

          I wrote that “Guide to Electronic Music” you posted below as could probably be seen. I am currently working on a sequel to it focusing on the most interesting post-1990 IDM/”Techno”/Trance type of stuff, and in the future may have another guide for 80’s Synthpop/Industrial/Goth type stuff

          1. Looking forward to that.

          2. Flying Kites says:

            I just now listened to the first song on bandcamp and am struck by the realization of how familiar this is to Mortal Constraint – The Legend of Deformation. https://gothindustrialebmsynth.blogspot.com/2010/09/mortal-constraint-legend-of-deformation.html?m=1 That Mortal Constraint album is the only thing I’ve heard in this “EBM” stuff and it’s pretty dope shit.

        2. Tyrell Dahlstrom says:

          Also, just as a clarification, my personal (relatively minor) issue with the vocals I refer to are unrelated to the distorted production style, and specifically the “whiny” type of voice Protector has adopted in recent years, such as around 3:00 of “Empty Shrines” here. (I’ve seen others describe them as sounding like Linkin Park and can see where they are coming from, although for whatever reason I don’t mind them as much in Summoning.)

          I actually personally think the typical Ice Ages vocal “style” such as on the This Killing Emptiness album sound really cool and fitting, but that’s just my personal taste.

        3. Spike Walker says:

          I would appreciate clarification on what you mean when you used the term ‘ambient hardcore’.

          1. Discharge and Amebix come to mind: drums are disconnected from guitars, as are vocals, letting guitars lead with a drone-like approach to rhythm. Discharge is one of the ingredients in death metal and black metal, although other bands were instrumental as well such as the Exploited, Amebix, Cro-Mags, GBH, and Black Flag.

      2. Flying Kites says:

        No, it’s not English and never will be.

        1. It’s like technical Spanglish.

          1. Flying Kites says:

            It’s ethnically mixed linguistic confusion. I will need to genocide a mountain range and rewrite the alphabet to set the record straight.

            1. “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” – William Blake

              “Heaps of sodomized, eviscerated corpses lead to the massgrave of mental clarity.” – DMU

  2. The tragedy of Summoning and Ice Ages is that they nailed the aesthetic so thoroughly that they felt they had nowhere to “grow,” when in fact, like Tolkien, they simply needed to expand.

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