Review

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By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Refused

Album: Freedom

Release Date: 6/30/15

Rating: 6.5/10

The late 90’s were indeed a great time to be into Punk Rock. While acts on the Pop-Punk end of the spectrum (Blink-182, Reel Big Fish, Eve 6) where gaining mainstream attention and a shit ton of airplay, there was something even bigger about to burst from the underground. And it was Swedish Post-Hardcore outfit Refused and their seminal classic, The Shape of Punk to Come, that blew the doors wide open!

The Epitaph Records act had a major hit on their hands in 1998. Led by the success of the single “New Noise,” Refused were poised to be the next big thing and the band to possibly take down Nu Metal before it had the chance to break onto the bastardized Alternative scene of the late 90’s. Unfortunately, it all imploded from there.

Refused called it quits just about a year after the release of The Shape of Punk to Come, leaving a massive void on the emerging Post-Hardcore scene. Although bands like At The Drive-In, Glassjaw, Zao and The Dillinger Escape Plan saw success at the turn of the decade, it wasn’t until the scene’s bastard cousin, “Screamo,” broke through to the masses that a sound pioneered by the band could really be recognized by a mainstream audience, albeit a very watered-down version of it.

However, the impossible happened in 2012, and the all-but-dead Refused returned from out of no where for a triumphant reunion. And after a few years of “will they, won’t they,” in 2015 Refused announced a full-scale second run along with a new album.

On June 30, Refused released Freedom, their first album in 17 years. The hype surrounding the release has been quite circumstantial, given that the band released on of the most influential pieces of music in the last 20 years.

With this being no easy feat, Freedom doesn’t exactly live up to all the expectations. Most lacking on Freedom is the sense of experimentation the band had come to be known for. Any experimentation that is present, feels forced.

Kicking off the album is the semi-lackluster, “Elektra,” leading into the awkward chant-along rocker, “Old Friends/New War.” Following this, the album slowly kicks into gear, with the scorching lead single, “Dawkins Christ;” an almost Faith No More-esque heavy rocker that captures, or recaptures, the band in the artsy-angst that made them legends.

Refused, circa 2015. Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com.

Refused, circa 2015. Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com.

From here, “Francafrique” and “War On the Palaces” come up somewhat flat, sounding as the band is trying to find some balance between a good poppy hook and a blast of Hardcore rage. Luckily, the final four tracks of Freedom really offer up something special.

“Destroy the Man” is a true rocker, boasting the trademark energy fans have come to expect from Refused. And although the following tracks, “366” and “Servants of Death” take on a more electronic-ish danceable role, they boast just as much Punk Rock as they do anything else, proving the band still have some new tricks up their sleeve. Finally, the album concludes with “Useless Europeans.” As the tension builds throughout ” Useless Europeans,” Freedom climbs to a satisfying climax.

All in all, Freedom is not exactly the follow-up to The Shape of Punk to Come. Refused take a step back at moments, several steps actually, allowing melody and hooks¬†have more¬†room than the blast of energy one may expect. However, nearly two decades have passed between the two records, and the band have undeniably grown as songwriters. With so many years missing in between, there’s no telling what baby steps where missed from Shape of Punk to Freedom.

Nonetheless, the record has some very solid tracks. Highlights include “Dawkins Christ,” “Servants of Death” and “Useless Europeans.” Conversely, “366” and “Francafrique” offer terribly catchy hooks that may just have you revisiting them, whether they strike you initially or not.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Floor

Artist: Floor

Album: Obliation

Release Date: 4/29/14

Rating: 9/10

It’s been 12 long years since the world got their last taste of Florida-based Sludge act, Floor. The band stunned the underground metal and alternative community with their 2002 self-titled debut, only to disband two years later. Although the album and band were a little-known gem of that scene at the time, the years have been kind to Floor as word-of-mouth has garnered a strong cult following. This year, they return with their follow-up, Oblation.

Oblation picks up right were the band left off in 2004, offering an array of slamming down-tuned riffs and juxtaposed with soaring harmonious vocals. Unlike many others in the underground realm, Floor manage to maintain a balance of slamming guttural sludge metal with an almost knack for pop hooks strewn throughout.

Kicking off with the menacing title track, Oblation is ripping from the start. Tracks like “Rocinate,” “The Key” and “Love Comes Crushing” find a unique balance of dark brooding tones while remaining upbeat. Other cuts like “The Quill,” “War Party” and “Sign of Aeth” are almost more characteristic of Sludge metal, sounding somewhat along the lines of Jucifer.

Despite the overwhelming heaviness of Oblation, there is much more than meets the eye, or perhaps ear, to Floor’s music. There is an aesthetic more in tune with punk and alternative, as Floor often put their metal credibility on the line on Oblation, channeling something deeper. The heaviness is more about a feel, a mood, rather than a style. In some cases, the album may appeal more to fans of punk (and unfortunately hipsters) than fans of modern metal.

Oblation sounds as a natural progression for a band who may have left before the party got started. With a resurgence of Sludge/Doom/Stoner metal swarming through the underground, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for Floor to make a hopefully permanent comeback.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Ghost B.C.

Album: If You Have Ghost (EP)

Release Date: 11/19/13

Rating: 4/5

Swedish doom-metallers Ghost B.C. first hit the international scene just a few short years ago. With over-the-top theatrics and horrifying Satanic imagery including mock bishop costumes, the back gave modern shock rock a well-needed kick in the balls. They have single-handedly slayed audiences across the globe, included a top 100 debut in the U.S. with their last album, Infestissumam, and have proven to scare the shit out of parents who have grew up on the likes of Marilyn Manson and Insane Clown Posse. And for their next trick, they cover the likes of pop music icons ABBA!

Yes, on their recently released covers EP, If You Have Ghost, produced by none other than Dave Grohl, the Satanic shock rockers choose to remake some very unlikely numbers from a range of diverse artists. Forget the obvious Slayer or typical dark and brutal heavy metal band. The aforementioned ABBA, along with Depeche Mode, and garage rock pioneer Roky Erickson are just a few of the brilliantly peculiar artists Ghost B.C. have chosen to convert to the dark side.

If You Have Ghost continentally begins with an upbeat rendition of Erickson’s “If You Have Ghost.” The band’s trademark dual lead guitar and soaring vocals are present, yet not much else is very doom-metal about this track. However, it hits on the mark and serves as a very pleasant listen. Next, a cover of ABBA’s “The Marionette.” What do “Dancing Queens” and inverted crucifixes have in common? Not much. But the quirky choice doesn’t necessarily fall completely flat; the falsetto vocals rival the original.

The EP begins to gain some serious steam by the third track, a version of Army of Lovers’ “Crucified.” A touch of darkness is brought to the reimagining of this pop hit, and their natural theatricality proves fitting for the track. Finally, their take on Depeche Mode’s “Waiting For the Night” serves ultimately climatic, taking the somber track to new sonic heights without leaving it’s original vibe in the dust, successfully bridging any gap between DM and doom metal.

Closing the EP is a live cut of a highlight track off Infestissumam, “Secular Haze.” For those who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing the band live, this little cut hints at what one can expect.

All in all, If You Have Ghost is a well-produced (kudos Mr. Grohl) and interesting listen. Not all will get it, but for those who will, it’s pretty cool. Perhaps a larger collection of covers, leaning closer to a full album’s worth, might help these tracks not feel so sparse. Still, their take on all of the songs is worth a listen. The EP is definitely not the right record to introduce one to the band. Perhaps Infestissumam, or their equally entertaining debut, Opus Eponymus, should be required listens before checking out If You Have Ghost.