A groundbreaking blend of hardcore punk, metal, techno, jazz, spoken word, social polemic and blinding fury, Refused’s 1998 masterpiece, The Shape Of Punk To Come, may have met with so much initial disinterest that the band split up soon after, but the album went on to inspire a generation.
The thrilling shows that followed their 2012 reunion suggested a new album was inevitable, but anyone expecting The Shape… Mark II is setting themselves up for a fall.
Refused may still have fire in their bellies and creative genius running through their veins, but they’re not the angry young men they were. Freedom is a much more straight-ahead rock album – despite Dennis Lyxzén’s impassioned, poetic vocals – albeit one with way more thrills than you’d get from your average punk band. Opener Elektra is built on a nervy anxiety-inducing riff and there’s plenty of experimentation going on, from panting as percussion (Old Friends/New War) to a kids’ choir with an Orwellian sense of menace (Françafique). The visceral thrill of old has been replaced by a poise and thoughtful grace befitting the stage of life they find themselves in, But the intelligence shining at the heart of Freedom makes their return to the studio a welcome one.