Essential New Music: Refused’s “Freedom”


Seventeen years after recording its classic The Shape Of Punk To Come, Refused is back and as vital as ever. Remember hearing “New Noise” for the first time? That fuck-yeah moment when Dennis Lyxzén shrieks, “Can I scream?” and the band drops in like a crate of dynamite? Freedom’s first single offers the same thrills, only without the burbling electronics of “New Noise” acting as a slow-burning fuse. Instead, “Elektra” detonates at its first massive riff, followed by Lyxzén most assuredly spraying bloody-throat tissue onto his microphone. Indeed, Freedom’s opening salvo is the best thing to come out of the hardcore genre since Snapcase called it a day 10 years ago.

Freedom also expands upon the experimentation started with Shape Of Punk, pushing the boundaries of traditional hardcore into newer (and sometimes weirder) territories. “Françafrique” is case in point, a shotgun marriage of hardcore and funk, brutal and hip-shaking in equal measure. Just don’t expect the dance remix to appear in your local club. If the children’s choir singing “murder, murder, murder” doesn’t clear the floor, Lyxzén screaming “kill, kill, kill!” certainly will. The genre-bending continues with “Old Friends/New War,” which traffics in industrial clatter, heavily morphed vocals and flamenco guitar, while “War On The Palaces” brings in the horns and ’70s guitar boogie. Admittedly, on paper, it would appear that the band has stylistic ADHD, yet Freedom ultimately finds cohesion in Refused’s continuing mission to punish your ears, move your feet and rage against the Man.

—Matt Ryan