Although in many senses, this album is in no way, shape or form a debut release, one key aspect sets this apart as a particular first for the Swedish post-punk rockers; this is their first album in English. Last Monday the band released their modern edged and classically influenced record to the UK via& Tie/Essential Music, and every controlled track off it is as enthralling as the last.
#61 opens the album, with a definite sound that combines classic rock and The xx, before the confident vocals of Dennis (Lyxzén) soar over the solid grunge of the track, enhanced by the backing vocals to create an echoed, three-dimensional sound. Although there is little musical variation in the track, it makes what there is all the more noticeable – most prominently the percussion build up that closes the track, and leaves the line “a storm is coming, a storm is coming for you” hanging in the air. At four and a half minutes, this is no halfhearted introduction to the release and sets a high bar for the rest of the album.
Down In The Shadow lets you experience the same empowering build up of the first track, as dark and refreshingly unclean instrumental break into unforgiving, decisive vocals of the chorus. This tracks holds more development in the sound from the melodic to the heavy, with high degrees of control making forcing the track to remain fluid. Opening of third track The Promise highlights how much less aggressive this band are in comparison to Dennis’s previous projects – Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Despite the unavoidable influences of bands such as Joy Division and The Cure’s earlier work, this track hints at a vocal and guitar slant that could be considered akin to U2, underlining the contrast of styles on the record.
Most notable in fourth track of this album, God Had Left Us Stranded, is the vast determination to convey the message of the title, and closing line “we’ve only got ourselves to blame” is one that serves as a reminder that music, whilst primarily an art form, is an ideal way to vocalise thoughts both personal and political. Vaesterbotten leans towards the personal side of the record, and focused lyricism captivates the idea of the area the band call home, with a slow instrumental backdrop to guide the vocals over the four and a half minute spectacle.
The second half of the album commences with Our Blood, featuring an establishing drumbeat that hardly wavers throughout. Little instrumental development leaves room to draw attention to the harsher vocals, and personal favourite off the album regards lyricism – “just how bad do you want to believe?”. Inheritance is one of the true anthems of the record – the self-righteous determinism that arises in the vocals, and the speaking-for-everyone attitude makes a song that will appeal to the world on a mass and individual level. Combined with an instrumental that packs in the forward-thinking atmosphere the vocals create, this is a true stand-out track.
It’s All Coming Back is one that’s bound to be a true favourite for percussion lovers, from the opening build up to the commanding close, before penultimate Distorted Heartbeat brings back the guitar focus. This is unavoidably one of the tracks closer to pop-rock, and in that, provides a refreshing kick before the album finishes – I don’t doubt that this would be an ideal way to bring about the close of a live set, too. There’s no doubt in my mind, though, that Hate is precisely the best way to wind up the record, with just under five and a half minutes of power. Despite its attacking title, the controlled bass that owns the track and sticking line “hats off to hatred, that made me this way”, actually shows a darker side of quietly confident defiance, summing up the record.
From powerful rock anthems to more sincere and touching personal melodies, this record is the perfect reply to the generation left in awe at Refused‘s three-album career.