Refused – Freedom

Refused freedom

The hotly contested reunion or comeback album. Purists will bitch and list off 40 million reasons why a band should never re-enter the studio after calling it quits. They’ll tarnish their legacy. They can never re-achieve past glories. They’re too old. They’re not the same band anymore.

The list never ends.

And in a way, those points have some merits. After all it has been 17 years since Refused put out the revolutionary The Shape of Punk to Come. A recording that is universally considered classic and difficult to categorize. And shortly after the release of that record, the band imploded capped it off with a fiery press release stating “Refused are Fucking Dead.”

As new album Freedom (Epitaph) clearly points out, they were not fucking dead. After a series of reunion shows in 2012 and 2014, frontman Dennis Lyxzen, guitarist Kristofer Steen, drummer David Sandstrom and bassist Magnus Flagge still had some of that future punk left in them. Best of all, is that much like Carcass in 2013 and At the Gates last year, Refused sound as good and confident as they did in their 90s heyday.

Lead single ‘Elektra’ probably states it best: “Time has come, no escape.” It indeed is time for Refused’s left-of-center brand of noise. America at least, seems to be in an odd state of regression. We count corporations as people and have segments of the population that see the Confederate flag as “heritage”, and view same-sex marriage as a threat to their religious freedom. That’s without counting those denying global warming or the anti-vaccination movement.

And to show their discontent with the state of affairs, Refused keep the vitriol and attitude going in other punk scorchers like ‘Dawkins Christ’ and ‘Thought is Blood.’ And when they choose to turn down the assault it’s with tracks like ‘Old Friends/New War’ that while not as a raucous still keep a sharp edge as Lyxzen finds that “there’s no other choice but to create some noise and sharpen up my mind.” And we’re glad that you’re up to your old tricks.

Also, much like in The Shape of Punk to Come, these Swedes find room for eccentricity in Freedom. In the liner notes you’ll notice that both ‘Elektra’ and ‘366’ were produced by Shellback, the hitmaker known for his work with Adele and Taylor Swift. Once again proving that they are the most punk by following their muse rather than convention.

We need more records like Freedom. We need them because they remind us that certain genres are supposed to be the dangerous ones. I’m disgusted by the fact that the punk bands that prevail today happen to fall under the abomination known as “Pop-Punk.” A musical oxymoron whose practitioners are perfectly content to play arenas and extol the virtues of eating pizza and wearing fitted hats.

It’s nice to see that some are still choosing to live dangerously.

Refused, by Dustin Rabin Photography

Refused, by Dustin Rabin Photography

9.0/10

HANSEL LOPEZ

King Hitter – King Hitter

king hitter ep 2015

If there is ever a time I get to go on a great road trip (outside of Maryland Deathfest this year) I will be certainly cranking albums like King Hitter’sself titled debut EP. For those not familiar, King Hitter consists of Karl Agell on vocals (Corrosion of Conformity/COC BLIND/Leadfoot), Scott Little on guitar (Leadfoot), Mike Brown also on guitar (Cutterhead), Jon Chambliss sitting behind the set (S.L.A.M.), and Chuck Manning keeping up the low end on bass (S.L.A.M.). Overall, I liked the groovy, southern personality this group brings on their first EP. Karl’s vocals may not be the harsh vocals the heavy metal culture is accustomed to nowadays, but I find them to be fitting. Even if this EP only has five tracks on it, each one has its own feel and vibe which kept me interested throughout.

The first track, properly entitled ‘King Hitter’, is a great sample of what these guys have to offer. A great southern, bluesy feel while still keeping it groovy. Karl’s vocal hooks are also very catchy and listener’s will catch themselves head banging for sure. ‘Drone Again’ and ‘Feel No Pain’ increase the ante by getting a little heavier on the guitars and, at times, had sections of instrumentals that sounded like a punk rock band. ‘Suicide (is the Retirement Plan)’ wins the award for most clever song title of the month by a landslide as we hit the second half of the album. However, even if this EP is coming to an end, King Hitter does not wind down at all. Arguably one of the heaviest guitar riffs on the album comes in the verse of this song. Lastly, we have the most appropriate song title to end any album, ‘The End.’ The mood of this song swings more than pendulum which I though adds to the insanity of all endings really. Halfway through the track we get the most bluesy guitar solo I may have ever heard from a heavy metal band.

Overall I did enjoy this EP and I look forward to see what else King Hitter has to offer. For fans of bands like Corrosion of Conformity, Down, and even Volbeat, I feel you should check these guys out. Even if none of the aforementioned bands interest you, check out King Hitter.

 

7.0/10

TIM LEDIN

Enabler – La Fin Absolue Du Monde

EnablerCover

Milwaukee’s own, Enabler, are back and ready to break your face (or maybe just your ears) in their newest release, La Fin Absolue Du Monde (The Compound/Creator Destructor ). Now I will come out and say that I am not really the biggest fan of hardcore punk and normally do not end up at said shows. However, Enabler has done a great service in recruiting me as a fan of what they have to offer. The sheer energy that the Wisconsin threesome create in this newest release is what hardcore bands of today should be modeling themselves after. Enabler is able to create speedy, short songs and give a crossover thrash and d-beat feel but keep their hardcore roots in as well. Lastly, well-timed breakdowns are extremely important and should not be the center of the song. So out of the 14 neck-breaking tracks, I was able to pick out a few of my favorites, although just about every song was enjoyable.

‘Neglect’ has one of my favorite riffs/tones on the album as Enabler keeps it really crusty which is one of the big selling points for a hardcore band for me. I love the pace of the song as well as it starts off quick then just runs into a breakdown and stays in that tempo to finish off the song. My favorite lyrics come from the end of the very next track, ‘I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This’ and no, this is not a cover of Taking Back Sunday. The listener is once again greeted to a high-speed tempo attack to start of this track. Just when your neck starts to hurt, the tempo slows down but the aggression picks up. At the end of this track, the lyrics, “No future, no fate, there’s nothing but the lives we make” is repeated a few times. Not only do I completely agree with these lyrics, but the delivery of the message wrapped in the Enabler energy got my goose bumps to grow goose bumps. One last song I wanted to point out, which happens to be the longest song on the album at 5:46 in length, is ‘Felony.’ The intro riff to this song almost sounds like some sort of alarm you would hear out of a Silent Hill knock-off as it gives off vibes of something big coming. The song hits a crescendo that kicks into the high-speed tempo I’ve come to highly enjoy throughout the album until we hit what sounds like a build up for a breakdown. What we get instead is a breakdown that has the most epic feel to it that literally brings the song down back to just a crusty guitar riff until that too fades away.

Overall, it only took me a few spins of this album to get hooked on it. This band has indeed earned at least one more fan today in me and I will be searching for more at this point without a doubt. Looking back on La Fin Absolue Du Monde and the sound that Enabler is pulling for, I can only wish that I am able to review their next tour when it comes through my way. And maybe, just maybe, Cancer Bats can be included on said tour as well. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.

 

8/10

Enabler on Facebook

 

TIM LEDIN