Marching Church, “Telling It Like It Is”

Marching Churchmarching_church-2016-telling_it_like_it_is
Telling It Like It Is
SACRED BONES
7/10

Emerging from the underground Danish punk scene—not that there’s much of a mainstream to distinguish it—Marching Church was first spawned as a side project of guitarist/vocalist Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, whose critically acclaimed post-punk/goth quartet Iceage garnered immediate buzz with their 2011 debut. As the boys in Iceage matured, so did their sound: piano ballads and Irish-inflected drinking songs started to compete with the loud, fast, and snotty, and their most recent release, 2014’s Plowing into the Field of Love, drew comparisons to Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and was almost as highly praised.

When Rønnenfelt released the first Marching Church album in 2015, it was as a one-man band solo project that combined Iceage’s brashness with experimental grandiosity and decidedly soulful leanings; his spooky cover of the 1960s soul classic “Dark End of the Street” put the emphasis on dark. On Telling It Like It Is, Rønnenfelt relinquishes the reins and turns Marching Church into a seven-piece band, enlisting the services of members of like-minded Nordic punks in Lower, Hand of Dust, and others.

The ten tracks on Telling It Like It Is take one through a maze of eccentric, woozy ballads and foot-stomping ditties, all punctuated with varying doses of punk-rock urgency. The album opener “Let It Come Down” will do little to challenge comparisons to Cave as Rønnenfelt opines “Will the dust ever settle on us” in a dramatic tenor over a melancholic score. It’s followed by “Up for Days,” which brings to mind mid-90s Tom Waits and Belgian art-rock monsters dEUS. Midway through the album we’re treated to a wandering five-minute dose of experimentation with “Inner City Pigeon,” while “2016” boasts a great guitar line that wouldn’t be out of place on Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible.

Rønnenfelt has proven himself to be a prolific sorcerer, creative to a fault, intense, and often guarded; he’s probably not the most engaging chap at the party. Whether or not Telling It Like It Is will be followed by a third Marching Church album or a return to Iceage remains to be seen, but we’re sure whatever Rønnenfelt lays on us next will be worth a listen.

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