Refused - _Freedom_
(Epitaph Records, 2015)
by: Dan Lake (8.5 out of 10)
Refused's legendary years (1991-1998) predate my enjoyment of heavy music by a good margin. Even when a friend handed me _The Shape of Punk to Come_ ten years after its original release, it received my mild appreciation but was quickly set aside. Were it not for the journalistic buzz surrounding them upon their return, I would probably still be ignorant of the Umeå band's advanced hardcore milieu. Luckily, I recently found _Freedom_.

On _Freedom_, Refused sound exactly like who they are -- a rabid, focused hardcore band that has emancipated itself from the ideological constraints of that belligerent style. "Old Friends / New War" makes good on its immediate threat to groove, then breaks with the red-faced ranks completely by incorporating a plaintive vocal melody and some late guitar fireworks. "Françafrique" dance-rocks through a diatribe against the classist stripping of central African resources to sate a cold Western avarice, and "Servants of Death" employs synth-soaked rave beats to underpin its unflinching admonitions. And incredibly, none of these tracks were touched by the artist most likely to be targeted by accusatory fan finger-pointing -- pop compatriot and sinner/traitor Shellback assisted in arranging two of the album's most directly heavy tracks, "Elektra" and "366". "Thought Is Blood" trades a grumpy shuffle back and forth with a slick metallic attack. And then there's "Dawkins Christ", one of the greatest word pairings in the history of bigrams, pinned to an eminently engaging song about vacuous religion: "I got Judas' heart, Nietzsche's soul, Dawkins' cock in a God-shaped hole!"

As with Faith No More, similarly reunited and recent Refused tourmates, there is no guarantee that Refused will continue to be a fount of new recordings. We should gratefully accept these legacy-expanding artifacts one by one, as they come, if they come. Unlike Faith No More, Refused have tapped a worthy creative vein and generously shared their artistic wealth. _Freedom_ is raucous, rude, imaginative and inspired.

Exterminate the brutes. Praise the Lord. God is dead.


(article published 12/8/2015)

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