"This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life."
And with that starts what I would like to dub 2003's Best Swedish Release, Venerea's latest album "Out in the Red" - an album packed with the catchiest punk rock this side of the Atlantic. The quote above is, of course, from Stanley Kubrick's 1987 masterpiece "Full Metal Jacket", and the first song of this album - "Scythe" -starts off with an audio sample from that movie, actually in beat (and harmony, even) with the music. It kind of sets the standard for the whole album - original, catchy and fast. Which is just the way I like it!
I had, before this, no experience with Venerea. In fact, I didn't even know of them. And they're from my home country! Rest assured, I will from now on keep my eyes open for these guys, and I hope to be able to catch them live some time. Any way, seeing as how this is my first Venerea album, I have nothing to compare it to, nor did I have any expectations - but even if I had, I can't se how this album would've disappointed me. It's fast and fun punk of the So-Cal school (in fact, the band even plays a song titled "We Should Be on Fat").
The group is very tight in their playing, and they've packed this album full of riffs, breaks, harmonies and other treats. Combine that with a great sense of songwriting, and a knack for excellent choruses, you have one hell of an album to show for it - which is exactly what Venerea now have. Over 12 songs lasting for almost exactly 30 minutes (the ideal length for a punk album, by the way) they display the different styles they master - from the poppy to the dark, from the funny to the serious, from the fast to the... well, fast.
I also feel I have to mention that, even though these guys are from Sweden and English isn't their native language, they're not afraid to experiment with the lyrics. They even pull it off on most occasions, unlike a lot of other non-English speaking bands with English lyrics. They don't deliver 100%; some of the lyrics seem awkward and don't really please me at all. But that's alright, because more often than not, they're very much to my liking.
"Xstatic" is the name of the absolutely best song on this album - although it's a love song, it's really good. A cool verse with quick chord changes followed by the one of the catchiest choruses in a long time makes this track a real winner. The aforementioned "We Should Be on Fat" (which, coincidentally, has nothing to do with getting signed by Fat Wreck Chords) features one of the coolest riff-driven verses since Propagandhi's "Back to the Motor League". I've already mentioned "Scythe" as well, but it's a damn good song too. As is "King of the World of Ideas", "Nightmare on Sesame St." and "Two Sides of a Sore". Hell, there really isn't a single bad song on this album. Of course, not all songs are as good as the ones I've just listed, but they're all good and have at least one or two endearing qualities each.
In short, this is a really, really good album, and (as I said in the very beginning) my choice for "Swedish Album of the Year 2003" (if anyone was handing out an award called that). If you like bands like NOFX, Bigwig, Lagwagon and the likes, this is really something you should check out!