FROM: UMEÅ, SWEDEN
SOUND: HARDCORE / PUNK / ALTERNATIVE
Sonically and lyrically, ’Elektra’ does in fact pick up where they left off in 1998. “Down in the gutter, nothing has changed!” Lyxzén howls, and boy have the years done wonders for this guy’s vocals. 2015 has him sounding full-bodied and booming where he was once a brittle, without losing any of the gut-splitting conviction that leapt from their 90s catalogue. The guitars and rhythms that caused so many headaches and thrills are all back in full flight here too. As a lead single and album opener, ‘Elektra’ succeeds in recapturing attention and reminding us of what this band can be capable of before the rest of the record sets in.
Refused know how to work through a good sonic build and they move from here into the swelling ‘Old Friends / New War’ that strides fearlessly into new territory. They don’t sound a lot like their old selves on a few tracks here and we often find Refused favouring restrain instead of outright battery. The haunting ‘Dawkins Christ’ winks back at 98’s ‘New Noise’ in its initial tone and growth with the band casting only a few brief looks over their shoulders as they press forward.
They hit their first stumbling block on the fourth track and second pre-release single. ‘Françafrique’ is a rather naff funk-rock stomper loaded with the record’s most heavy-handed lyrics. Refused don’t mind beating you over the head with this one although the blows fall rather awkwardly. The gothic ‘Thought Is Blood’ beats a grim pulse as Lyxzén wills himself back to life before the track breaks open. The rebirth finds connection, enlightened and ready to rage. Openly anthemic, ‘War On The Palaces’ blazes with horn fanfares, phased guitars and a huge chorus. The track almost sounding like a misplaced B-side from the recent ‘Sticky Fingers’ reissue. The band’s closing offering seeks to emulate a live atmosphere with added crowd dressing while Lyxzén’s shows off his calmer singing voice over acoustic guitars and a limping bass-line. He continues to mock inaction to the last breath; “Go back to sleep / You’ve been all that you can be...” urging us to “Dream a new dream.”
This set of songs lacks the immediate spellbinding power of ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’ but there’s still plenty of muscular playing here and the whole thing will likely translate spectacularly in a live setting. David Sandtröm’s drumming on ‘Dawkins Christ’ and Magnus Flagge’s bass work throughout stand up as particular highlights on a record that ebbs between hit and miss. Regardless, Refused come out to play on ‘Freedom’ like a band with nothing to lose and they are still as capable as ever of one of the best live shows on the planet. Refused would rather be alive and we’re all better for it.