It’s no secret that Refused has been paving the way for modern punk and hardcore since the 90’s, but with the release of their fifth studio full-length record it’s clear that they still have a lot to say. The Swedish band is best known for their iconic 1998 album, The Shape of Punk to Come, and they’ve been shaping punk ever since. Though the album was initially a flop, it went on to become one of the most groundbreaking and genre-blending albums of hard music history. Fast forward 21 years and they’re still fighting the power and redefining what punk music is. While War Music may be a bit more polished and melodic, this album cooks up a new version of that classic Refused recipe. You can expect to hear a lot of twists and turns, breaking of genre and structure norms, and abrupt change-ups. Long story short, expect the unexpected.
War Music is crammed full of screeching vocals, mosh-worthy hooks, and lyrics sure to get your fist in the air in support of the revolution. In typical anti-establishment fashion, these songs are a sermon of punk rock ideals spread over a riffy backbone. Unlike a lot of their counterparts, Refused draws much of their guitar sound from rock ‘n’ roll and classic metal riffs as opposed to a modern metal-core or hardcore sound. This gives the album an eclectic combination of heaviness and melody, a perfect foundation for sing-along choruses and head-banging breakdowns. Picture a crowd at a rally or protest and you’ve got a pretty clear picture of what War Music is all about.
Among the heavier tracks are “The Economy of Death” and “The Infamous Left,” the latter of which belts an epic outro echoing the phrase, “rise up right now,” a call to arms that can sum up much of the album. “REV001” is an amped up anthem that sets the record off with guns blazing. Though the album has that classic Refused bite, it still finds ways to shake up the listener and prove catchier than ever before. While some die-hard fans may prefer the more raw and aggressive sound of earlier albums, War Music should still attract stage-divers and singers alike. It may not have the same influence and experimental nature as hits like “New Noise,” but there’s still plenty to be surprised by and plenty of energy to go around. The live shows in support of this album are bound to be as intense as the songs and movements they represent.
The world has changed a lot since the band started in 1991, but their message of liberation and turning the system on its head remains the same. Songs like “I Want to Watch the World Burn” and “Malfire” are a great example of their stance on political unrest, a message that we need to hear more than ever in 2019. This band has been through a lot, and anyone who hasn’t heard their story should take a quick stroll down their Wikipedia page, but their unique rise, fall, and rise again gives them a perspective and notoriety worth paying attention to. It’s fair to say, the legend of Refused continues. This is punk music. This is political music. This is war music.