White Whale Vinyl: Why Collectors Covet Icelandic Freakery of Icecross | Revolver

White Whale Vinyl: Why Collectors Covet Icelandic Freakery of Icecross

Inside proto-metal act's ultra-rare private-press debut
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Our weekly column "White Whale Vinyl" spotlights the most sought-after rare vinyl in the heavy-music universe. Shop for vinyl, including a selection of limited-edition Revolver-exclusive variants, via our store.

Today, Icelandic music is everywhere — from avant-pop enchantress Björk and post-rock phenoms Sigur Rós to prog-metal cowboys Sólstafir and sadly defunct hardcore trailblazers Mínus. But back in the early Seventies, you'd be hard-pressed to hear much Icelandic music outside of Iceland itself. Such was the conundrum for heavy prog outfit Icecross in 1973: The options for Icelandic rock bands were so limited that they moved to Christiania, the famous (and still extant) hippie enclave in Copenhagen, Denmark, to make their mark. While living in fully baked free-love bliss, they recorded their self-titled debut, which they then released as a private pressing in their native Iceland.

Icecross boasts American-influenced classic rock, quirky Groundhogs-style blues and dark pastoral ballads. But it's the album's centerpiece, a brilliantly Sabbathian slab of anti-Christian evangelism entitled "Jesus Freaks" that makes the record a cult hit. And with only 1,000 copies pressed, it's an exceedingly rare find. Just seven OG copies have changed hands on Discogs since 2013, with the sale price topping out at $1,477.38. As of this writing, there's a copy available from a seller in Poland for 899 euros, or about $1,070.24.

As with many of the records featured here in White Whale Vinyl, there have been several bootleg pressings over the years, especially from Italy and Russia. Luckily, Icecross was officially reissued by San Antonio-based Rockadrome Records in 2013 for the album's 40th anniversary. Not only is it affordable — and still in print — but it comes with liner notes that reveal what became of Icecross's members after the band split up in '75.

Guitarist Axel Einarsson released a solo album in '76 and eventually moved to the States, where he worked as a carpenter before returning to Iceland to run a recording studio and make children's music. Drummer Ásgeir Óskarsson went on to become one of the most respected and prolific drummers in Iceland, playing on over 300 albums. By far the most ironic fate is that of bassist Ómar Óskarsson: In an apparent reversal of the "Jesus Freaks" lyrical stance, he joined the band at his local church.

We recently spoke with Scott Spaulding, a senior used record buyer at Amoeba Records in Los Angeles, about this strange and fascinating piece of rock history.

scott_spaulding_amoeba.jpg, Scott Spaulding
Amoeba Records' Scott Spaulding
Courtesy of Scott Spaulding

HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT THE ICECROSS ALBUM?
SCOTT SPAULDING
The first time I heard about it was when I saw it, actually. Amoeba had maybe been open for a year — so about 2002. I remember because it stuck with me and I had to do something about it immediately. I found a copy in a buy I did, and it was annihilated, just totally thrashed — like what we would consider a dollar-bin copy. But when I saw the album cover, I was like, What is this? Then I did some quick research and found an unofficial copy online. I've had the same one for like 18 years now.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT?
I love this record because it's totally of its time. You've got these crazy Icelandic hippies — hugely influenced by Sabbath — who made this wild, kooky, awesome record. You can tell just by listening to it that they were interesting, freewheeling dudes. There's usually not a lot of songwriting focus on private press rock records from this time period, but this record has some focus — the songs are conceptually well put-together — and there's a lot of good playing. They've got good fuzz tones with a cool proto-metal feel. It's heavy and dark and "Jesus Freaks" is awesome. If they had kept making records, they could've been like Hawkwind or Amon Düül II. But it just didn't happen.

HAVE YOU SEEN MANY COPIES SINCE THAT FIRST ONE YOU CAME ACROSS NEARLY 20 YEARS AGO?
I've seen it maybe a dozen times in used buys, but I'd say maybe only half of those were legit OG copies and the rest were bootlegs. But every time I see it, I make sure somebody I know buys it.

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TEMPTED TO SPRING FOR AN OG PRESSING?
I've seen a couple of VG-level ones, which I wouldn't fork the cash over for. But if I came across one that was VG+ or better, I'd have to think hard about it. I really would. It's one of those records that has stuck with me over the years. I mean, $500 or $600 is a lot for a record, but I'd have to think about it. When it gets up to like $1,100 or $1,200, well… my kid needs clothes, you know? [Laughs]