Refused are back. Properly back. Not just ‘playing a few shows’ either, but with new material – a full new album no less – and every bit of raw attitude you’d dare to hope for. Seventeen years since ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’, a record that’s become required listening for every generation since, the legendary Swedish band will drop ‘Freedom’ on June 30th via Epitaph, led by the incendiary opening track ‘Elektra’, which is streaming online now.
“Nothing has changed!” frontman Dennis Lyxzen screams, as if picking up the baton first dropped on the band’s initial end back in 1998. A call to arms, a rallying cry that could only come from Refused, any lingering doubts that new songs were a good idea is firmly cast aside.
A press release explains that ‘Elektra’, as well as fellow ‘Freedom’ tracks ‘366’ and ‘Destroy The Man’, existed before the band even returned to the studio, created by drummer David Sandstrom, guitarist Kristofer Steen and bassist Magnus Flagge for a new, vocal-less band. Steen explains, “I said to David, ‘Why are we pursuing this experimental project that has a lot of overlap with Refused? Why don’t we turn these into Refused songs instead?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah! That’s what I think too!’” Sandstrom adds, “When Dennis wasn’t involved, the music was a lot more dense and dynamic, with a lot of stuff going on. When we started thinking we were writing for Dennis, we made decisions that suited him and created room for him.”
But ‘Freedom’ doesn’t promise to simply be more of the same. Two of the new tracks, including ‘Elektra’, were produced by fellow Swede and longtime Refused fan Shellback – famous for his work with Taylor Swift, Lily Allen, Pink and Britney Spears. Production elsewhere was taken up by Nick Launay, who’s previous credits include Public Image Ltd, Nick Cave and Arcade Fire. The press release compares new songs to Kanye West, Prince, Michael Jackson and MC5.
“On some of the songs we thought, ‘Can we really do this? Is it too much funk? Too much rock’n’roll?’ It’s enjoyable to balance on that thin edge,” explains Flagge. “We’re after that element of danger. We could have played it safe and made songs based on hardcore tradition, but none of us were interested in doing that.” Adds Lyxzen, “In all honesty, if we’d have had the financial means and the know-how, we would have tried even dumber shit 20 years ago. We went into this record with a very, very open mind and the notion that anything was possible. There was no blueprint for how we wanted it to sound.”
Lyrically, Lyxzen and Sandstrom checked themselves into a Stockholm hotel for three days, “talking about politics, existential issues and what we wanted to present as a band in 2015. We talked about the political situation in Europe, capitalism and how it affects people. These discussions turned into songs.”
“It’s not a reunion anymore,” Lyxzen insists. “This is one of the most radical things we’ve ever done, both musically and lyrically.”
On the strength of ‘Elektra’, he’s got a point. Stream the new track below.