Written by: TL on 27/07/2015 14:04:16

Considering that countless bands form and break up every day, it can seem somewhat mysterious how Sweden's Refused became the stuff of legend after imploding on tour in the US in 1998. But then again, "The Shape Of Punk To Come" obviously has something to do with it. The band's "final" album built a unique bridge from punk ideology to what would be some of the founding elements of post-hardcore, and is to this day far and away the most important European release in that genre. Much has been written about how ahead of its time that record was, and the myth of Refused would arguably have stayed more pristine if the band had stayed fuckin' dead. Yet in the age of reunions, even they came back together, first to lay waste to the world with an admittedly incendiary comeback tour, but then also to make a new album. One soaked in controversy from the start, both from the fact that guitarist Jon Brännström has been fired from the band and replaced with Mattias Bärjed of The Soundtrack Of Our Lives and from the choice to collaborate with famous pop-producer Shellback.

Discussions about the reunited band's integrity aside, though, the new album "Freedom" has come out and from the very start, it's clear that Refused haven't exactly gone soft. "Elektra" opens in riveting fashion, with hard beats, angular riffs and flammable lyrics, sounding exactly like something you can imagine raising the roof of the arena concerts the band has been playing frequently since their return. It is in the middle of the album that things peak, however, in the triplet of songs starting with "Françafrique". Here the riffage takes on a hard-funk kind of vibe while each boisterous hookline has the infectious quality to hold on to your mind for days. The following "Thought Is Blood" has perhaps the most kickass guitar figures of the whole album coming in after an extended intro, and with "War On The Palaces", the band lets it all hang out, with a rock & roll riff signature and a brazen brass section added to give the track a sort of ironic festive feel.

There's nothing particularly festive about the songs' content however, and while "Shape Of Punk To Come" concerned itself loads with the band's position in relation to the punk scene and the music industry, "Freedom" delves into more "grown up", global political problems, including all the rage and indignity that you would expect from as huge a hardcore fan as frontman Dennis Lyxzén, whose raspy chanting and screeching provides the main body of vocals as always. His experience shows as he sounds both pissed off and as full of conviction as ever, yet his messages are preserved as his words are still perfectly audible for by far the most of the record.

That all being said, as radical as "Freedom" will sound to fans of mainstream music, you can't get around that it sounds clinical and gridlocked in an inevitable comparison to "The Shape Of Punk To Come". The odd bit here or there bringing to mind the eclectic genre-experimentation of a band like for instance The Clash, is not enough to make "Freedom" sound like Refused are still the volatile creative force they once were. Arguably the comparison is unfair, but even so, "Freedom" doesn't dare to be weird enough to really challenge the kind of fans who will be most interested in it. It is 'merely' hard-rocking, rebellious music, and even as that, the album lacks the diversity and consistency overall to figure as a top contender in 2015. Songs like "Old Friends / New War" and "366" simply do not have the ideas to drive their sentiments home and hold up their parts of the album, and as such are partly to blame when Refused's comeback must ultimately be labelled a mundane "solid". There's a handful of tracks here that will be good to hear at future Refused concerts, but don't count on feeling the kind of awe you would expect if you've been reading up on the legend surrounding "The Shape Of Punk To Come".

Download: Françafrique, War On The Palaces, Thought Is Blood
For The Fans Of: Letlive, Rage Against The Machine, Thursday, United Nations, The Dillinger Escape Plan

Release date 30.06.2015
Epitaph Records

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