Refused
War Music


3.0
good

Review

by Aeri USER (32 Reviews)
October 18th, 2019 | 80 replies


Release Date: 10/18/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Blood Red, or at least as much as it can be.

Be it through any creative medium, the artist who finds himself haunted by their most famous or critically acclaimed piece will forever be one under constant scrutiny. For Swedish hardcore punk outfit Refused, 1998’s The Shape of Punk to Come is entirely inescapable.

Seemingly destined to eclipse anything the band should potentially release in the decades ahead, from the striking subtitle A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts through to the uncannily prophetic impact the album made within the multifaceted veins of rock’s future, Shape... was solidified as an album of immense influence, whilst also standing tall as the band’s own worse enemy. Indeed, with Refused’s eventual resurrection from being “f**king dead” and lukewarmly received 2015 effort Freedom appearing (in the eyes of some) as little more than an attempt to capitalise on a wealth of collective fame, recent years seem to have only strengthened the grip of The Shape of Punk to Come. While ‘New Noise’ reared with intent and ferocity or where ‘Tannhaüser / Derivè’s introductory strings struck with beautiful poignancy, the mere fact that Freedom’s leading single ‘Elektra’ would be trimmed from a rumoured seven minutes to the far more (God forbid) radio friendly runtime of just over three minutes was enough to install wariness amongst fans.

Ultimately, regardless of any high points, Freedom disappointed compared to its seemingly legendary predecessor, so where exactly does War Music fall with so much (or perhaps lack there of) pressure to course correct Refused’s return? Well, if the first 30 seconds of album opener ‘Rev 001’ are to be believed, it’s with determined vigour.

Indeed, whilst ‘Elektra’ opted for a frenetic energy with bouncier guitar riffs, ‘Rev 001’s haunting introductory female vocals quickly give way to something with a little more punch; sludgy, slamming guitar riffs and drums dominate and Dennis Lyxzén’s politically infuriated screams feel just like ‘98 all over again. Unfortunately, while the momentum is undoubtedly there the variety just simply isn’t, and thus the track uncomfortably drifts by repetitiously with most of the song playing it safe by hopping back and forth between the same old verse/chorus/verse/chorus and before you know it it’s on with ‘Violent Reaction’.

Which, speaking of ‘Violent Reaction’, is actually a lot of fun, and brings things back nicely. Boasting infectiously fuzzy lead guitar licks and an energetic percussion not too dissimilar to (ironically) ‘Elektra’, ‘Violent Reaction’ unleashes the energy of a far younger band, while Lyxzén’s searing delivery of ”we’re a violent reaction” rips through the track’s far heavier down tuned bridge fiercely. It’s not exactly anything stellar lyrically, but the aggression is welcome and suddenly ‘New Noise’s signature opening riffage doesn’t seem so far away after all. Elsewhere, and enjoying another welcome example of well utilised aggression, ‘Turn the Cross’, relishes in launching thrashy guitar riffs into your face and an unrelenting percussive backbone showcasing David Sandström’s abilities perfectly. Eventually culminating in a final 30 seconds of cocky, stomping riffage and Lyxzén’s furious screamed vocals, ‘Turn the Cross’ reinvigorates where lead single ‘Blood Red’s aggression seemed to be lacking some much needed “umph”.

Changing the album’s pace, ‘I Wanna Watch the World Burn’ borrows the introductory guitar riff of Shape...’s ‘Liberation Frequency’ and delivers a lighter, alternative rock sound, and for the most part probably stands as the most radio friendly release of Refused’s entire career. It’s not entirely awful, but hearing Dennis F**king Lyxzén singing ”I wanna watch the world burn, cause I know you felt it too” drifts just a little too close to the Billboard Top 40 Alt Rock when coming from the band that penned “Refused Are F**king Dead.” On the subject of reusing previous material, however, if you thought we wouldn’t notice the ‘Dawkins Christ’ introductory guitar lead recycled into a brand new riff for the moody, downtempo ‘Malfire’, we didn’t ignore Freedom to that extent Refused, come on guys... And yes, ‘Damaged III’ also sounds like ‘New Noise’ in the intro, it’s just a shame that the rest of the track is relatively lacklustre compared to what is probably your biggest song ever.

Truthfully, where War Music does best is easy enough to gauge; it’s when the band actually lives up to the aggressive implications of the name of the album. While the thrash metal-esque ‘Economy of Death’ proves a massively fun ride, especially hearing Lyxzén’s repeated screams of ”you’re so f**ked”, the missteps are those that try too hard to be “single worthy” and thus fall a little flat despite some genuinely interesting instrumentation in virtually every song (see ‘Blood Red’s dual lead guitar for further elaboration). True, variety is the spice of life and experimenting musically should absolutely be encouraged, but the same experimentation that sometimes hindered Freedom crops up from time to time and it’s the glaring black sheep of ‘I Wanna Watch the World Burn’ that stands out most of all.

All in all, when compared to the mixed bag of 2015s Freedom, War Music certainly stands as the more consistent release of “Modern Refused”’s discography. While the likelihood of ever releasing a magnum opus comparable to The Shape of Punk to Come seems more and more unlikely, tracks such as ‘Turn the Cross’ and ‘Violent Reaction’ prove there is still plenty more bite left to back up the signature aggression Refused became so well known for. The political standpoint may have changed throughout the years, and Shape... may still be the overbearing shadow that eclipses anything to follow War Music, but Lyxzén and Co hardly seem all that concerned when slamming percussion and shotgun blasting thrashy guitar riffage out into the world is probably just as cathartic as it ever was back in 1998.



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user ratings (81)
3
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
Aerisavion
October 18th 2019


1822 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Feedback appreciated as always. Most of this was written on a long flight so there’s likely a typo or two.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
October 18th 2019


15809 Comments

Album Rating: 2.2

oh god, i forgot this was out today. will cautiously check this out later. will also read this later too, though i'm sure it'll be a great read, as always.

Digging: Desert Sessions - Volumes 11 and 12

dimsim3478
October 18th 2019


8504 Comments


NOBODY LIKES YOU ANYMORE, REFUSED

Digging: teto - ?????????

Aerisavion
October 18th 2019


1822 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Cheers Gonzo - yeah I completely forgot too until my phone reminded me it was up, happy listening buddy

Pikazilla
October 18th 2019


6462 Comments


no, skele

NordicNorth
October 18th 2019


14 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm digging this album, Violent Reaction could be my favourite song they've ever written. Too early to call it but after a few listens, this album is really impressive.

osmark86
October 18th 2019


9380 Comments


a Refused album in 2019?

fromrows
October 18th 2019


328 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

What freedom should have been imo.

Digging: Western Addiction - Tremulous

Source
October 18th 2019


14409 Comments


overrated band!

botb
October 18th 2019


13386 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Man the production on this fucking sucks. What a shame, riffs are so cool.

Aerisavion
October 18th 2019


1822 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah the riffs on this are ridiculously solid, a lot more interesting than anything on Freedom

botb
October 18th 2019


13386 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

its mixed like a pop album or something. Vocals are super loud and guitars are mad quiet and drums have 0 punch

StrizzMatik
October 18th 2019


3869 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Riffs bring it. Violent Reaction, Turn The Cross and Economy Of Death are dope af

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
October 18th 2019


8741 Comments


Bet this album fucking sucks lol

Digging: Liturgy - H.A.Q.Q.

Minushuman24
October 18th 2019


2398 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

God, I hate that album cover

Digging: LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

qwenta
October 18th 2019


352 Comments


I gave this a spin and it seems to me better than freedom but that's easy.

Digging: Tool - Fear Inoculum

mike2916
October 18th 2019


5 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, I too doubt that Refused can ever top their masterpiece work, but can any artist? I held the same reservations over their return which were only further compounded by the massively disappointing, despite its few rough gems among the tracklist, underwhelming & weak release of “Freedom”. This sucked especially since Refused have been one of my longtime favorite bands, and they were fantastic when I had the enjoyment of seeing them live several times on their reformation - at Coachella 2012, where their awesomeness was nearly overshadowed by At The Drive-In’s miserable set - as well as several dates afterward including a FIRE concert with Faith No More that was probably one of the best 2 or 3 shows I saw in that year, and I go to a LOT of shows. I was that guy many of you had in your social circles annoying everyone he knew who were fellow music dorks into giving TSOPTC a listen and converting many into Refused fans along the way) after picking up the CD some time in late 1999 for a hefty price at the old Virgin Megastore in Times Square NYC. Anyone else remember “import” price gouging? I think I’ve still got that original $27.99 scratched-up disc in my collection.



Anyway, just gave this two listens over the last 12 hours, once right when it came into my Apple Music library and again just a half hour ago. It’s surprisingly solid. LEAGUES better than Freedom. There are a number of *fucking excellent* tracks on here. Way better than I had expected this being especially after the pre-release singles being relatively “meh” in my opinion...other than Economy of Death. I agree with whoever complained about the mixing on this album. This is SO poorly mixed I hope that Denis & co. slap the shit out of whoever is responsible for mixing this hot garbage. The riffs on this are incredibly solid, the drums thrash with the passion and vigor that was missing from Freedom but you can barely hear them as it’s overpowered by the vocal mix which is way too high. The bass is almost non existent at least on my setup. This would do really well with a genuine remastering.



I’d say it’s a solid 3.5/5 for me. It’ll suffer from a bunch of people giving it 1’s because it’s not The Shape or Pink to Come but people need to get over this: learn to enjoy what they put out now for what it is. Musical tastes are highly subjective anyway.

Edit: had to bump it to a 4 for now on the strength of Violent Reaction alone. This track kills it.

misho87233
October 18th 2019


32 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I must say this album is milion times better than Freedom.. Freedom had some nice ideas, but I didn't really liked any of the songs.. this time it's totally different.. some great riffs here and the energy is fantastic..

BTW I just can't lose the feeling that "I Wanna Watch The World Burn" sounds like a modern AFI track

JeetJeet
October 18th 2019


7307 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

oh god. I'm dreading listening to this but I just have to hear it.

Digging: Counterparts - Nothing Left to Love

Aerisavion
October 18th 2019


1822 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

“It’ll suffer from a bunch of people giving it 1’s because it’s not The Shape or Pink to Come”



Oh god it’s like a Linkin Park non-Hybrid Theory thread all over again



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