Belgium (Promotor) Dieter Craeye
Trix - Antwerpen (be)
Micro Festival - Liege (be)
Dour Festival - Dour (be)
Trix - Antwerpen (be)
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.”