Echo PalaceRegular price $25.99 Save $-25.99
After the pandemic hit, and the people of the world suddenly grew wary and suspicious of one another, Iguana Death Cult, one of Europe’s most exciting rock exports, became more than just a band to its members—it became therapy. “I think for the first ten times we went to jam,” says guitarist/vocalist Tobias Opschoor, speaking about the process of making the new album Echo Palace, “we just drank wine and talked about it, and just kept on talking for hours—and then were like, ‘OK, I have to go because I have to work tomorrow.’”
Taking place at frontman Jeroen Reek’s apartment in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, these gatherings slowly shifted from talking about this surreal chapter of their lives—the days of quiet streets and cramped buildings—to making music about it. “I was living in a really crappy, leaky, ready-for-demolition apartment,” explains Reek, “with just one heat source—like a really old-school, gas stove kind of thing.” Working on cold nights, they had to gather around that heater together—a cozy approach that ultimately got their creative flow going, fast.
Armed with the talents of Justin Boer on bass and Arjen van Opstal on drums, and tapping the keys work Jimmy de Kok for the first time on album, the band took their trademark melodic garage-rock style and expanded it out to make it vibier and looser, with each member contributing ideas to develop the sound palette in full. “We all get into this sort of blender and then everybody gives a little bit of a flavor to it,” says Opschoor.
The sounds they started to make tapped into the band’s acerbic bite established on their first two LPs, 2017’s The First Stirrings of Hideous Insect Life and 2019’s Nude Casino—albums that sometimes felt like Parquet Courts colliding with Super Furry Animals. (Paste described Nude Casino as evoking “the colorful mischief of nights out where even a humdrum accountant can feel like a Clint Eastwood desperado.”) Their explosive performances of these records turned them into a cult live act among psych fans, who have thrashed to the band everywhere from Amsterdam to Austin. (It was during a particularly bananas set at SXSW that the band won over Innovative Leisure.) But working on this new album, huddled together as the world split apart, everything began to flutter like Remain in Light.
Echo Palace may be the Iguana Death Cult music that’s most overtly about the strange cause and effect of groupthink, but the theme has been lurking there since the very beginning, when the band was first formed by childhood friends Reek and Opschoor over ten years ago. The name of Iguana Death Cult is a partial nod to Reek’s fascination with cults in general—and the “Iguana” part is a nod to Iggy Pop, whose first band was the Iguanas. Watching the pandemic paranoia and conspiracy theories steeping across their country, Reek wrote lyrics reflecting the scene in front of him: “Purple, veiny soccer mommies,” he sings in a deep, foreboding voice on the song “Echo Palace,” “Sharpening their guillotines.” It’s a cut so infectious that it betrays the density of its lyrics, which were adapted from a poem Reek wrote about the repercussions of “shutting yourself off from everyone outside of your own ideology.”
When it came time to record the full set, the band headed to PAF Studio in Rotterdam, and then had the self-produced album subsequently mixed by Joo-Joo Ashworth (Sasami, Dummy) at Studio 22 in Los Angeles and mastered by Dave Cooley (Tame Impala, Yves Tumor). As the instruments swirl and trade solos on “I Just a Want House,” a funky millennial nihilist anthem, you can practically hear the growth of a group that’s been pushing itself further and further with every tour and every Belgian-stove fuelled jam session. The album is a big swing, stretching Iguana Death Cult beyond its garage rock origins and taking them to a new realm. It’s the type of project that warranted having legendary Dutch saxophonist Benjamin Herman stop by to add to the squall on tracks like “Oh No” and “Sensory Overload,” heady thrashers that morph into calculated freakouts; that warranted Reek and Opschoor knowing when screaming their guts out on tracks like “Pushermen,” and Boer and van Opstal knowing when to bring the rhythm section to a jazzy simmer on tracks like “Paper Straws.” =
The end result of Echo Palace is an appropriately worldly album from a group breaking past the confines of its home country. That’s not to say that Iguana Death Cult aren’t proudly Dutch; the group takes from the trademark hard work ethic of their Rotterdam base and applies it to their approach with music. But it’s 2022, and we’re less defined by our borders than ever before. “When we play in other countries, for me that gives the same amount of pleasure—or even more—than when we play in the Netherlands,” says Opschoor.
“We’re not just little countries anymore, everything is global,” adds Reek, speaking about society at large—but he might as well be speaking about Iguana Death Cult itself. “We’re turning into a global thing.”
Nude CasinoRegular price Sale price $9.99 Save $0.00
LP is Gatefold Jacket + Download Card.
CD is 4 Panel Digipack.
Rotterdam’s Iguana Death Cult hasn’t exactly been shy about causing havoc on whatever stage they set foot. That’s likely been the one constant since establishing their giddy brand of protopunk and garage rock on debut LP The First Stirrings Of Insect Life. Iguana’s pending follow-up Nude Casino marks a swift and sobering departure from the miasma of psychedelics they purvey so fervently. But no less intense: this band has been sharpening their tools, reemerging from their concrete cavern with a ragged and convulsive post-punk attack akin to Devo, The Gun Club, and Richard Hell.
Nude Casino sporadically evokes Iguana Death Cult’s more hedonistic tendencies, but the album’s crisper, more unvarnished sonic makeup illustrates a seething skepticism as a counterbalance. Frontman Jeroen Reek finds himself teetering in demented neurosis between vivid dream states and stark reality. The album’s beating heart is ‘Tuesday’s Lament’, an arresting five-chapter monologue that wrestles with the strains of mortality and belief. As Reek narrates the invasion of existing evils into his phantasmagorical, aquatic dream world, somehow, Iguana Death Cult manage to jam it all into a belter of a melodic hook: “Swimming upstream for the sake of paradise, it’s up there still.” A bashful resolution, albeit one that balances on the edge of fatalism.
Adding a touch of sobriety, both sonically and lyrically, hasn’t stifled Iguana Death Cult daredevil ways the slightest. The mighty triptych of ‘Nude Casino’, ‘Bright Lights’ and ‘Lorraine’ was pretty much written simultaneously, a testament to the off-the-chain chemistry the Dutch quintet has developed over the years. Axe-wielder Tobias Opschoor once again brandishes his resourcefulness for licks that penetrate the skull with charm and impertinence. He is the brains behind Nude Casino’s manic, climax-building pinnacle ‘Nature Calls’, a juggernaut of a track that ironically captures a yearning to drift away from the civilized world. Though more grounded in reality, sonically speaking, ‘Nature Calls’ might be the closest kin to the more surrealist pronouncements of First Stirrings.
Playing an abundance of shows – at small clubs, squats and festivals such as The Great Escape, Lowlands, c/o pop, Plissken and Reeperbahn – has whipped Iguana into even more ferocious live band, and that experience carries over in the recordings. The tandem of Justin Boer (bass) and Arjen van Opstal (drums) is still the engine that drives the group’s helter-skelter horsepower. Jimmy de Kok adds a new melodic dynamic, assaulting the neurons with feverish organs and synths. With yet another erratic element in the fold, Nude Casino invokes something more claustrophobic and barren, tackling themes like sleep paralysis (‘Half Frisian’) and lost innocence (‘Castle In The Sky’).
Indeed, Iguana Death Cult isn’t gleefully surfing that mighty tidal wave anymore, but giving in to destructive currents that enwrap everything in chaos. Nude Casino is an intrusive, spastic affair, streamlined into a propellant, hook-heavy yomps, never more obvious than the cadaverous disco pulse of ‘Carnal Beat Machine’. Like The Clash and Minutemen before them, Iguana Death Cult have embraced the art of rocking the fuck out with all senses and impulses up to eleven. Rapturously sinking in their claws, and never letting go.
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Iguana Death Cult Nude Casino on Cassette Tape.
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Iguana Death Cult t-shirt featuring a logo over the heart.