Imagine what it must be like to be Dan Brown. You’ve written The Da Vinci Code and enjoyed huge success. The book has sold millions of copies and even the film adaptation has done quite well. The public can’t get enough of it and they want more. Now you have to come up with a really great sequel, but it’s hard. You spend many sleepless nights wondering if what you’ve tried to write is good enough, before deleting it all and starting again.
Refused have had the same problem.
The Shape of Punk to Come was, without a doubt, their seminal album and it’s difficult to move forward from there.
It’s been 17 years since the ground-breaking record was released and there have been many splits and reunions in that time, but have they put as much effort into this as they should have?
Yes and no.
The problem with doing anything described as “avant garde” or “experimental” is that you can be seen to be trying to recreate your past success or even to be trying too hard.
The angst is still there, but to describe Refused as a hardcore band is just plain wrong.
So, without trying to pigeonhole the band, look at it from the perspective of simply calling it music.
It’s a surprising mix of styles and some of it works quite well. Album opener and single, Elektra, is a fantastic song. A great riff and bizarre choice of time signatures helps this chug along quite nicely. It is sure to be a moshpit favourite when they play live.
Sadly, it goes a little off the boil from this point. Old Friends/New War and Dawkins Christ are pretty lacklustre in comparison. Thought Is Blood injects a bit more life into proceedings and War on the Palaces has a great classic rock feel to it.
Destroy the Man has some fabulous bass-playing on it, but a song with such a name needs to be much angrier than this. Refused seem to be attempting, and failing, to sound a little like Rage Against The Machine on this track.
366 is another standout song with some great riffage and it’s got a kind of anthemic feel to it. It’s actually almost as if you’ve heard it before, it’s that comfortable.
The album ends – or peters out, if you prefer – with Servants of Death and Useless Europeans. Both songs sound like they’ve just been phoned in, to be brutally honest.
If you’re a long-time fan of Refused, you might love this, but you might hate it. It really is a bit like musical Marmite.
If you want something experimental and edgy, you’re really better checking out Nomeansno’s Wrong, if it’s somehow managed to pass you by.
Freedom is out now on Epitaph Records.
The full track listing for ‘Freedom’ is as follows…