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Refused - War Music (Album Review)

Thursday, 24 October 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

During the 1990s Refused established themselves as one of the most progressive hardcore bands around, laying the groundwork for the likes of At the Drive-In, Glassjaw and eventually, Gallows.

They disbanded after the critical and commercial failure of 1998’s ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’, now viewed as a hugely influential cult classic, and ‘War Music’ is their second new album since reforming in 2012. It represents a band in great nick, fired by renewed confidence and musical precision. While the LP lacks the zeitgeisty immediacy of their ‘90s catalogue, it is a record of immense energy and political relevance.

We open with REV001, which features guest vocals from fellow Swede Mariam The Believer. She lays a mournful intro before the band take over with screaming, pneumatic riffs and heavy punk arrangement. It’s an enormously exciting starting pistol of a song, and feels over way too soon.

No matter, as we immediately drop into Violent Reaction; a rapid rock chugger that could actually form the basis of a Velvet Revolver song were it not for frontman Dennis Lyxzén’s unmistakeable screaming. Since returning, Refused have become very skilful at mixing up tempos and textures while keeping things squarely in the hardcore/post-hardcore bracket. It's vital to the cohesion of ‘War Music’.

That said, I Wanna Watch the World Burn does push at the genre’s outer edges, with Lyxzén detailing his revolutionary zeal more tunefully: "What we lost in the fire we'll find in the ashes / There's an untold promise 'neath the rubble of the ruin." 

The generic discipline here may be a hard-earned lesson from the band’s experience of ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’, which confused fans with its use of techno and jazz elements. In this regard the album remains robustly within the '90s Refused sound.

While ‘War Music’ feels a little throwback, look beyond the veneer and there is a surprisingly contemporary album here. In music, as in politics, themes and ideas have a habit of returning cyclically. The particular style of messaging, hardcore punk in this instance, may lack the currency of Billie Eilish or Stormzy, but anti-capitalist revolution does very much feel back on the table in a way that it might not have been 10 years ago. Catch them live if you can.

Refused Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat October 26 2019 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Sun October 27 2019 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Tue October 29 2019 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Wed October 30 2019 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Thu October 31 2019 - MANCHESTER Academy
Fri November 01 2019 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City

Click here to compare & buy Refused Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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