Review || Refused - "War Music"

Friday, October the 18th of 2019 will see the release of Refused’s fifth full length album titled “War Music” on Spinefarm Records. 

Honestly, I don’t know how to start this review; I’ve been staring at the screen for over 15 minutes. I can list how initially "The Shape of Punk to Come" was not recognized for what it was, the record that shaped hardcore punk music for at least the next decade, how heavily influential it actually was for so many bands you would never think of, how it makes sense to release a record like that could render it plausible to walk away from music since it’s impossible to top it or keep going on a steady creative vibe. I could continue with how the band itself was so ahead of its time even on their second masterpiece record "Songs To Fan the Flames of Discontent", how - even then - hardcore music in Europe was something extremely different than in the States and how eventually the North American sound followed in those footsteps for many years to come. I mean, Refused played hardcore music with damn Telecasters in 1996. They forced being political, as the only way to express through punk music, feel natural again. They mixed electronic and classical music with a heavy sound before the new millennium. Hell, they were the first band to my knowledge that grooved with hardcore music. There’s not a single person out there who loves any kind of music who doesn’t move their head and clench their fist when listening to "New Noise". They were artists on a whole other level than almost anyone else in that genre. By so damn far. 

Yeah, I could do that. I could follow it by mentioning I was utterly immature in understanding and appreciating their heavy musical aesthetic in the mid 90’s when all I cared about was melodies and fast paced drumming and how it should be considered a crime that I went to my first punk rock mini Festival in Berlin in 2012 (Monster Bash) but couldn’t understand why a band like Refused were headlining a mere 14 years after their original hiatus. How I had the time of my life watching my favourite – at the time – bands playing live at the said festival, naming The Bouncing Souls, The Menzingers, Laura Jane Grace and Chuck Ragan, Anti Flag and Make Do and Mend, Hot Water Music, Lagwagon and others; how Refused came on stage and my mind exploded. 
I consider that show a life changing experience. Even in 2012 Refused were pioneering live performances. It was the most artistic hardcore punk show I’d attended, perfectly constructed, energetic and generally incredible. Returning home the first thing I did was watch the “Refused are Fucking Dead” DVD. I can’t even begin to explain how unique it is. Their entire discography was played on a loop, as were the International Noise Conspiracy records and even the AC4 LP, frontman’s Dennis Lyxzen side projects. What the hell was I doing all these years? A door was opened and I never closed it again.   

We’re moving on splendidly. Refused’s first LP in almost 17 years titled “Freedom” drops in 2015 and a few years later I get an email to review “War Music”, only the band’s fifth LP in an essentially 15 year musical life span. This brings us to today, right now. 
Having mentioned all the above, I’m going to address “War Music” as an independent body of work of a somewhat historic band. Refused basically deliver a modern political hardcore punk record; "REV001", "Violent Reaction", "Damaged III" and "The Infamous Left" are straight up hardcore songs which could easily fit into the band’s sophomore release mentioned above, "I Wanna Watch The World Burn" and "Death In Vännäs" feel exactly like revved up TINC tunes, there are much heavier touches on "Economy Of Death" and for a large part of the incredible "Turn The Cross" and my favourite elements all appear on "Blood Red" and "Malfire", the more diverse offerings of the entire record. I feel like "War Music" is a very quantifying glimpse into the bands’ past, making it sound like a heavy record with so many different things to take notice of in between songs and even within songs themselves. Still, the record is beautifully balanced in sound going from the blackest parts of hardcore music - sometimes more in the veins of basic metal music - to perfectly arranged melodic garage punk music. The one thing I wish was a bit different is the production which actually bears more on the lighter side, especially on the guitars and, if approached even like "Freedom" was, I feel it would have made for another exploding record. Lyrically, every single song is introduced by a political quote from various writers, giving the reader/listener a significant outlook behind the inspiration in the writing process of each track.     

“War Music” is a uniquely varied release having “Refused” written all over it. Everyone in the band has brought his A-game to the table and delivered it flawlessly. The band is to be seen live at all costs and with another plethoric batch of new songs, the mix is sure to not disappoint. I sure as hell wasn’t with this record. 

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