“The most polarising metal band since Limp Bizkit” are back at it again: metalcore’s favourite …
War Music–wow. In traditional Refused fashion, the fifth studio album from the Swedish punk rockers is a very volatile, very aggrieved album.
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In terms of dissonance and the resistance you’ll experience from the band’s thematic output, not much has changed, largely in part because not much has changed in the world. So for vocalist Dennis Lyxzén, that’s meant having to be more conscious of what Refused are trying to say.
“We’ve tried to be more conscious about our message, and tried to be more conscious about shaping who we should be rather than who we think we are,” he says. That train of thought is influenced by many factors–society, Refused’s fans, and their own drive and ambition.
While sonically amazing, Refused don’t introduce new concepts; they remain politically diverse and far from ambiguous about it. And from where they first started out in 1991 to now, the world is still pretty messed up. But what is new is Lyxzén’s performance, his delivery of War Music. The album courses with bolstering melodies and succinct lyrics that do anything but beat around the bush. The velocity at which Lyxzén conducts himself means the passion is evident, the thirst and desire for acknowledgement for change is striking. Part of the reason Lyxzén has given such a strong performance is his need to turn to music as a catharsis in order to vent his frustrations about the world as it is. “We’re not happy about the situation of the world and I think you can tell from what we do, how we present our lyrics, how we get them to stand out,” he says.
You have to write so you love the song–if you don’t write music you love you can tell it’s not an honest attempt.
[ Dennis Lyxzén ]
“One of the key things we talk about when we write songs, particularly when we write the chorus is, ‘Why did we want to scream that?’ It’s one of those things we talk about–we write something super clever and cool, but it makes no sense to sing it.
“It’s a Refused standard. We want the choruses of the songs to be something that, when you go to a show, no matter why you’re at the show, if you want to vent and release that frustration and anger, you need to sing something that makes you want to scream.”
Interesting; could it be that Lyxzén’s post-performance analysis and decisions as to how he relays these sentiments and opinions determines how others will receive the songs? A deep, involved question that causes Lyxzén to pause for thought. After a moment of contemplation, he says, “I’m not sure–I think we put a lot of thought into what it means, and I think we put a lot of thought into … Wait, no. When you write music, first of all, you have to write to speak to yourself. You have to write so you love the song–if you don’t write music you love you can tell it’s not an honest attempt.
“That being said, of course, when you play live and you get people involved in on the action of what you’re performing, of course they’ll influence how you feel.
“I think you have to be very aware at the end of the day, of what you feel at the time–writing, performing–and I think the only person you should be outperforming is yourself.”
Sonically throughout War Music, when Refused are spilling over into 80s pop-inspired groves, mixing up punk with metal and a little sludge, they’re almost reflecting on societal history, musically and thematically, and drawing together all the crap that’s ever happened. Refused are shoving it all together as if to say ‘This is what it sounded like then and this is what it sounds like now, because everything we’re going through, it’s all the same.’ “I mean, I like to listen to everything from 60s rock to metal prog–that’s the range of the spectrum of the influences and the music that we like, and I think in the band, we are music nerds, particularly with pop music.
“It’s funny, it’s one of those things where we love a good pop song. But you listen to the verse and it’s the language of punk, the energy of metal, and the song writing sensibilities of Pet Shop Boys or something like that. “If you combine all of that, it becomes a bit of a weird amalgamation, but it is who you are as people. Yes, it is a fair assessment to say that everything is here, in some way or another, because of the kind of nerds that we are.”