ALBUM REVIEW: Refused – War Music

Release Date: October 18th 2019
Label: Spinefarm Records


Now back with their second studio album since their 2013 reformation, Swedish hardcore trailblazers Refused arrive with their latest record ‘War Music’.

When it comes to bands with a classic album to their name, fewer albatrosses hang heavier over anyone’s backs than their iconoclastic chimerical bombination in twelve bursts, ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’. As was the case with ‘Freedom’, it’s best not to expect this record to sound like their 1998 classic.

And ‘REV001’ is a strong enough start, with a signature Refused groove and Dennis Lyxzén‘s unmistakable yelps and sloganeering carrying the song. You’ll definitely want to chant along to much of this.

‘Violent Reaction’ carries on in a similar fashion, and it’s clear that this feels like a stylistic continuation of ‘Freedom’; a mix of their hardcore roots with some alternative rock and new-wave influences.

But in songs like ‘Blood Red’, it becomes apparent that noticeable portions of this record feel hashed out with little after-thought, and even a little pedestrian by their standards. Thankfully, ‘Malfire’ is a definite highlight, with some tension appearing in places as well as some strong hooks.

‘Turn The Cross’ is fast and angry enough, but the ending led by the “If you hear this, you’re a weapon” hook feels particularly forced. Rather than inciting passion, this section unfortunately derails the momentum.

Still, ‘The Infamous Left’ and ‘Economy Of Death’ are at least immediate and fun, and the metallic riffing definitely helps to up the ante for the latter song, with Lyxzén‘s shout as strong and potent as ever.

Objectively this record isn’t bad at all, and there are certainly a handful of great additions to Refused‘s discography here, but, the point isn’t that you want a sonic successor to ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’ – you want Refused to feel vital and believable, especially given the backdrop of the current political climate, and this album simply doesn’t maintain this all the way through.

Sadly, no matter how much you persevere, not a lot of this album sticks in your memory. Perhaps honing in more on the sections of this record that don’t sound like Refused as you’d expect would make for a more interesting listen. There’s just about enough for this to be a solid, enjoyable effort on the whole, but it’s safe to say that ‘War Music’ won’t exactly start a war.