Refused Freedom

2015 Epitaph

Let freedom ring...

Refused - Freedom


Rage Against The Machine may have shone a glaring light on the injustice of the Western Hemisphere throughout the 90’s, but it was Refused who closed out the decade by igniting the proverbial mental firebomb that was 1998’s ever-influential “The Shape Of Punk To Come“. Sure the scope of it was more limited to the cultural impact and corporate appropriation of a musical genre, but the seventeen or so years that have passed since have certainly broadened Refused‘s interests.

Freedom” represents the bands first foray back to active duty since that affair and it brings with it the impassioned leftist political underpinnings that frontman Dennis Lyxzén espoused so freely during his post-Refused run in The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Truly, in a lot of ways Refused now sound like a European equivalent of Rage Against The Machine—well, intellectually at least; For so much of “Freedom” is spent railing against oppression, economics, religion, theology and the like.

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To that end Lyxzén adds no buffer, taking on various religions full force (“praise the lord, god is dead”) on “Dawkins Christ“, and going so far as to apparently even reference ‘Jewropeans’—that is unless his Swedish accent got in the way—during the latter verses (4:50 onward) of “Useless Europeans“. That particular song is especially timely, given that the lyrical content seems set to dismantle the alleged economic/cultural oppression caused by the European Central Bank.

It’s all a rather bold and provocative experience, one that should encourage some liberal discourse, if not a few conversions to leftist ideals. But even so, the instrumental portion of the album is where things get muddled. You wouldn’t expect Refused to take a unified course on an album, especially when their last album was a nothing short of a riotous insurgency perpetrated by the uncommon bedfellows of punk, metal and jazz.

But the ramshackle nature of “Freedom” is unfortunately even less coherent than expected and tends to draw from elements too scattered to make a wholly enjoyable experience. Opener “Elektra” sounds explosive with its unexpected Tool-reminiscent bass lines and seething rage, but it also feels a bit too blunted and dumbed down for Refused standards.

Old Friends/New War” sports the inclusion of comically deep voiced spoken word you’d expect in a skit on a 90’s gangsta rap album, and the subtle inclusion of what sounds like g-funk synths in the background are more odd than enlightening. The digitally modified acoustic strumming that powers the track is quite catchy though, but it’s not enough to keep the whole operation in check.

War On The Palaces” is a bouncy indie rock styled jam that throws back to the 80’s, complete with horns, female shouts, a ropey bass line and an effects-laced, guitar-driven bridge that wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by The Police. There’s countless moments like these in the featured songs, where Refused uproot and shift into a part change you wouldn’t expect. Much of it seems to be sourced directly from early 00’s indie rock or poppy 80’s rock however, two elements that don’t always take to the abrasive hardcore spirit they so freely express here.

Freedom” is a wholly forward-thinking listen and one that demands at least a few listens. It could very well be ahead of its time. But outside of its scathing lyrical content and Lyxzén‘s flammable performance, it’s all too easy to get lost in trying to decipher what the band are trying to accomplish. If The Killers or The Strokes attended protests and tried to make a reactionary metal/hardcore album, this very well could be the end result.

As disjointed as it may be, you can’t help but appreciate the bands devotion and commitment to it. But as it stands now Refused no longer feel like they are dictating what is to come, so much as they are trying to make the pieces of what has already been fit together in a brashly provocative way.

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