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Album Review: Freedom by Refused

Fifteen years since their seminal and genre defining album The Shape Of Punk To Come, Swedish hardcore punks return with their new album Freedom on 29th June. It’d be fair that the influence and appreciation of The Shape Of Punk To Come has grown exponentially since its release, now a revered album, many people will probably see Freedom as tainting its legacy. It’s a reasonable response.

The 1998 version of Refused were a politically charged hardcore punk beast. There were anti-capitalist chants and a left wing manifesto blasting into your face, yet the real magic was in the music. It was gloriously brutal and visceral punk with elements of electronica and a groove thrown in for good measure.

The 2015 version of Refused are still a politically charged beast but it’s certainly no longer hardcore punk. This is a pop version of Refused. Freedom isn’t a terrible album, there’s fleeting moments of genius, it’s just bitterly disappointing. If his was a new band on their first album you could accept this as average middle of the road rock. Refused have always wanted to be a band that goes against the grain and subverts you’re expectations, on Freedom they aren’t going against the grain of mainstream rock, this is as accessible as a Refused album could be.  It is horribly accessible, bland and inoffensive.

Lead single and opener ‘Elecktra’ kicks off with a churning riff that has all the ingredients to get your blood pumping. It’s a good song and being the lead single it upped the expectation for Freedom, it’s a high point that the album barely touches again. The chant “nothing has changed” couldn’t be further from the truth, the world is a different place, Refused are a different band and you have the feeling that Dennis Lyxzen’s political cries are barely relevant. Sure the war cries have been updated slightly, to look at the European Union etc (on ‘Useless Europeans’), but unlike the music they seem to have their basis in 1998.

It’d be pointless to go into all the low points of Freedom. We’d be here all day, look no further than the Maroon 5 style acoustic guitars on ‘Old Friends / New Ware’ and the backing vocal on ‘Francafrique’. The best moments come in the form of the previously mentioned ‘Elecktra’,  ‘366’ (both written in collaboration with pop supremo Shellback) and the fantastic ‘Dawkins Christ’. All three feature some brilliant guitar work and give you fleeting memories of the energy and passion that Refused used to have (and induced in the listener). The rest is all a little meh. It doesn’t leave any lasting impression. The only other song to make you take notice is ‘Servants Of Death’ and that solely due to its pop-rock bluster.

Freedom is a decent middle of the road rock album. It lacks any of the magic or passion of previous Refused output, this won’t be influencing any further generations. The band may be doing what they want and subverting your expectations, that doesn’t mean it has to be good. Some may call it Art Punk, I’ll call it boring.

AD Rating 5/10.

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