Review Summary: “It could be dangerous…art, as a real threat.” – Protest Song ’68
Refused are no strangers to rebellion. Listen to any of their previous records and you’ll be caught in the crossfire of the fray that is their music. The band of left-wing Swedes are the amplification of every decibel of hatred you feel for corrupt or unjust authority, and I know you’ve felt that at some point in your life. The pure rage against an enemy is of the same emotional caliber as any joyous or sexual catharsis; it’s in our veins. Now in terms of art, channeling this feeling takes a keen ear in the case of Refused, as they are a musical group. With “The Shape Of Punk To Come” the boys were seeking to spark two revolutions. One of these would strike the political system and the other the music scene. Both of their purposes were the same – is that not as despicable as society gets? Two completely different intelligent designs crumbling under the weight of the same oppression. Refused re-defined hardcore and in doing so, revived forgotten philosophies that we still overlook. Punk is stationary…potentially great, but motionless. Lazy. Passive. It’s shape is unclear, and it’s unclear if we’ll ever see it the way we’re going. Politics took the same turn and look where we are now: fighting like schoolyard toughies for influential domination in our own country. Destroying nations in useless wars and getting paid to rebuild them, fashioning them after our own polluted cities and towns. Refused, I, and hopefully you have had enough of this nonsense. It’s time for the Refused Party Program.
From the start this album is as fiery as hell. The bandmates sound like they are locked in mortal battle with one another in the chaos that is “Worms Of The Senses/Faculties Of The Skull”; or the angry release at the end of “The Deadly Rhythm”, one of the most emotional Refused moments in their discography. When “Protest Song ‘68” finishes haunting the listener with ghastly whole notes, a brooding guitar solo passionately closes the piece like surreal sung lyrics. The album's first climax is in the final moments of "Deadly Rhythm" with heavy distortion and Lyxzen screaming "Can no longer pay the price, we'll get organized! We'll no longer believe working for you will set us free!" evoking a rebellious theme like always, but the depravity in Lyxzen's voice during this particular release of anger makes him sound more fed up than ever. Lyxzen's lyrics are written in English, but the way he screams sometimes make them sound otherwise. "Refused Party Program" is lyrically ironic amongst a slew of insightful political poetry as a completely rash burst of punk propaganda energy, the second climax of the record. "Chimerical Burst", as in the title of the album is a very accurate description of it; it's brief, yet powerfully revolutionary. The band's arrangements are far more professional and creative than your average punk/hardcore group, especially on "Deadly Rhythm", "Tannhauser/Derive", "Worms Of The Senses", "New Noise", and "Protest Song '68". "Protest Song '68" and "Tannhauser/Derive" share the same caliber of emotion, but "Derive" is better for me because it shows Refused's will to transcend the traditional punk routine, instrumentally and lyrically; while "Protest Song" also does that, "Derive" does it better. The band was just as concerned with the aesthetics of this record as with it's metaphorical value, unlike their previous efforts. This shows a maturity that was unfortunately cut short because of the band's breakup. And what do we have to thank for all of this ardent proficiency? When lead singer Dennis Lyxzen references an earlier record, “Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent” in the lyrics of “Protest Song ‘68” we are reminded of why Refused do what they do, and why they have been so consistent.
We made this album wanting to challenge peoples preconceptions of what a Punk band could be and what it could play, because Punk is the most conservative musical form there is. Even in Hardcore, there are so many rules about what is and what is not acceptable, and that completely negates the whole spirit of the original idea. - Dennis Lyxzén
Dennis Lyxzen is a natural born public speaker and a well-versed political poet. One couldn’t have chosen a better leader to some of Europe’s most fervent anti-establishment performers. Every now and then, when perusing the endless stream of metal and hardcore music, you’ll encounter a voice that is unlike any of the others…one that makes you feel exactly what it feels, and absorbs you into a vehement zeal, cutting the kite string attached to your boring interpretation of society. His hatred for the repetitious cycle the world has fallen into stirs similar thoughts and feelings about the hardcore punk cycle that prevents the genre from expanding beyond brash chords. “The Shape Of Punk To Come” influenced countless technical metal and punk bands alike. Few have been able to duplicate the combination of emotional and instrumental brilliance like Refused did with their final release, but they are out there, and so are their lesser kin, just examples of how the cycle is rolling down a whole new road. This album is one of the most important in the history of hardcore music, and marks the second climax of the genre itself after it’s own birth.