10 Songs, 34 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

On their second album since reforming in 2012, Swedish punk trailblazers Refused channel the visceral energy of their 1998 milestone The Shape of Punk to Come with scathing political commentary couched in metallic hardcore. War Music sees vocalist Dennis Lyxzén and his crew taking on capitalism, racism, and toxic masculinity, complete with overt references to Black Flag, Warzone, and the old-school Finnish metal band Oz. As Lyxzén tells Apple Music, Refused’s long-standing call for the overthrow—or at least abandonment—of what they call the “economy of death” hasn’t diminished over time. “A lot of our friends in the ’90s, they were super political and radical, but now they’re into academia,” he says. “They’re not out in the streets fighting. They’re fighting on a different stratosphere that doesn’t really mean that much. So it’s a call to arms. At one point on the album, it’s basically me just screaming ‘Rise up right now!’ for two minutes.” Here Lyxzén walks through all of War Music‘s war music.

Rev 001
“Well, first of all, the reference ‘Rev 001,’ it's of course to the Warzone Lower East Side Crew 7-inch, because it's the first Revelation Records release. And it's a pretty basic midtempo kind of banger that I think sets the tone for the record. It's about when there's blood on the streets, somebody's getting paid. It’s a call for a revolution or for social change, and I think it's a pretty damn nice track.”

Violent Reaction
“‘Violent Reaction’ is one of those songs where there's one guitar riff that's pretty amazing, and then there's like six different variations of it. It’s a very busy song—there's a lot of stuff that happens in three minutes. It deals with the rise of populism and the rise of politics without an agenda. When people are cornered and your choices are the poor choices that we have, then people are going to become a violent reaction to that. It’s up to you how you want to define that. But I think it's a great song, and there's a really unexpected twist at the end.”

I Wanna Watch the World Burn
“It's kind of an existential look at what we've become when we live in a world that's not designed for us. Because no matter how much you are against capitalism or how much you are against the system, you are part of the system. You have the same dirt on your fingers, and you have the same sort of feeling of ‘this isn't right.’ I just want to burn that down and start over so we can have a new world that's actually more designed for us. The song is pretty catchy, too—when we wrote it, we thought it was kind of poppy, but in a way that ‘Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine’ on The Shape of Punk to Come was.”

Blood Red
“This was the first song that was written for this record. The working title was ‘The Case’ because it has a little bit of a Snapcase vibe to it. Kris and Dave were in Paris hanging with some friends of ours who have a studio, so they recorded an early demo version and sent it to me. And they had this French guy singing the chorus, because it was just a chorus at that point. I was like, ‘That guy sounds like me!’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, he has a hardcore band. They sound kind of like Refused.’ So if they ever need a replacement, they’ll have a French Dennis who can sing.”

Malfire
“I think this is my favorite track on the record. It’s a song about these geopolitical circumstances that force people to leave their homes, because their homes are being f**ked and their countries are being f**ked, and it's all tied into whatever power struggle that we don't even see going on. So these people escape and they go to Europe or they go to America, and people treat them like scum. Like everyone else, they just want a decent life, you know? And they can't live where they want to live, so they go somewhere else and we treat them like s**t. They become victims over and over again, and none of it is their fault.”

Turn the Cross
“The title is a reference to the Finnish metal band Oz [who have a song called “Turn the Cross Upside Down”]. The song is about the right-wing populist movement, kind of like the neo-fascist movement. They're rising up everywhere. There’s a line that goes, ‘Your opinion is not a fact.’ These disenfranchised, alienated men—it’s usually men—they breed on fear. They're afraid to lose their privilege or they feel they've lost privilege, and then they become angry and they attack whoever doesn't agree with them. And it’s an absolute thrasher of a song.”

Damaged III
“The title is a Black Flag reference, of course. A lot of our references—in our minds—are quite humorous, but then a lot of people don’t pick up on them because they assume we are dead-serious people. So this one is about toxic masculinity, but it’s also about how a lot of men don’t like the male role that’s being presented to them. David said, ‘I always thought that Henry Rollins and Greg Ginn’s relationship felt a bit toxic, so maybe this one should just be ‘Damaged III.’”

Death in Vännäs
“So this is a reference to the Thomas Mann novel and movie, but also the place where I grew up, which is pronounced ‘Venice.’ When I was a kid, there was a story in the news about a Japanese couple who were traveling across Europe by train. They were in Stockholm, and they went to the ticket counter and said they were going to Venice. But they ended up here, not in Italy. That must’ve sucked. So it’s a funny reference to that, but it’s also about growing up in a small community where the pressure to conform to the ascribed roles is usually a lot bigger than in a city where you can find your own little clique of like-minded people.”

The Infamous Left
“This is a pretty violent, thrashy sort of song. It reminds me a lot of something that could have been on [1996’s] Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent in the relentless riffing madness that we’ve got going on. It’s a song about looking at ourselves and our roles in the political discourse of the day. One huge issue with the left is that a lot of times they’re talking above people’s heads. They’re trying to be clever and academic and smart, but a lot of the people on the right don’t want that.”

Economy of Death
“This is a song that Mattias, our new guitar player, wrote some riffs for. It’s his first riff contribution. It has this propulsion to it, this almost primitive power—so primitive that at first I thought it was kind of dumb, like a throwaway song. But then we started playing it live, and the reaction of the crowd and the way it felt onstage, I was like, ‘Nope. This is not a throwaway song. This is an absolute beast.’ I think it’s a fantastic closer for the record, because we’re saying if we’re going to keep complying with the economy of death, we’re f**ked. And that’s exactly what I’m screaming at the end: ‘You are so f**ked.’”

EDITORS’ NOTES

On their second album since reforming in 2012, Swedish punk trailblazers Refused channel the visceral energy of their 1998 milestone The Shape of Punk to Come with scathing political commentary couched in metallic hardcore. War Music sees vocalist Dennis Lyxzén and his crew taking on capitalism, racism, and toxic masculinity, complete with overt references to Black Flag, Warzone, and the old-school Finnish metal band Oz. As Lyxzén tells Apple Music, Refused’s long-standing call for the overthrow—or at least abandonment—of what they call the “economy of death” hasn’t diminished over time. “A lot of our friends in the ’90s, they were super political and radical, but now they’re into academia,” he says. “They’re not out in the streets fighting. They’re fighting on a different stratosphere that doesn’t really mean that much. So it’s a call to arms. At one point on the album, it’s basically me just screaming ‘Rise up right now!’ for two minutes.” Here Lyxzén walks through all of War Music‘s war music.

Rev 001
“Well, first of all, the reference ‘Rev 001,’ it's of course to the Warzone Lower East Side Crew 7-inch, because it's the first Revelation Records release. And it's a pretty basic midtempo kind of banger that I think sets the tone for the record. It's about when there's blood on the streets, somebody's getting paid. It’s a call for a revolution or for social change, and I think it's a pretty damn nice track.”

Violent Reaction
“‘Violent Reaction’ is one of those songs where there's one guitar riff that's pretty amazing, and then there's like six different variations of it. It’s a very busy song—there's a lot of stuff that happens in three minutes. It deals with the rise of populism and the rise of politics without an agenda. When people are cornered and your choices are the poor choices that we have, then people are going to become a violent reaction to that. It’s up to you how you want to define that. But I think it's a great song, and there's a really unexpected twist at the end.”

I Wanna Watch the World Burn
“It's kind of an existential look at what we've become when we live in a world that's not designed for us. Because no matter how much you are against capitalism or how much you are against the system, you are part of the system. You have the same dirt on your fingers, and you have the same sort of feeling of ‘this isn't right.’ I just want to burn that down and start over so we can have a new world that's actually more designed for us. The song is pretty catchy, too—when we wrote it, we thought it was kind of poppy, but in a way that ‘Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine’ on The Shape of Punk to Come was.”

Blood Red
“This was the first song that was written for this record. The working title was ‘The Case’ because it has a little bit of a Snapcase vibe to it. Kris and Dave were in Paris hanging with some friends of ours who have a studio, so they recorded an early demo version and sent it to me. And they had this French guy singing the chorus, because it was just a chorus at that point. I was like, ‘That guy sounds like me!’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, he has a hardcore band. They sound kind of like Refused.’ So if they ever need a replacement, they’ll have a French Dennis who can sing.”

Malfire
“I think this is my favorite track on the record. It’s a song about these geopolitical circumstances that force people to leave their homes, because their homes are being f**ked and their countries are being f**ked, and it's all tied into whatever power struggle that we don't even see going on. So these people escape and they go to Europe or they go to America, and people treat them like scum. Like everyone else, they just want a decent life, you know? And they can't live where they want to live, so they go somewhere else and we treat them like s**t. They become victims over and over again, and none of it is their fault.”

Turn the Cross
“The title is a reference to the Finnish metal band Oz [who have a song called “Turn the Cross Upside Down”]. The song is about the right-wing populist movement, kind of like the neo-fascist movement. They're rising up everywhere. There’s a line that goes, ‘Your opinion is not a fact.’ These disenfranchised, alienated men—it’s usually men—they breed on fear. They're afraid to lose their privilege or they feel they've lost privilege, and then they become angry and they attack whoever doesn't agree with them. And it’s an absolute thrasher of a song.”

Damaged III
“The title is a Black Flag reference, of course. A lot of our references—in our minds—are quite humorous, but then a lot of people don’t pick up on them because they assume we are dead-serious people. So this one is about toxic masculinity, but it’s also about how a lot of men don’t like the male role that’s being presented to them. David said, ‘I always thought that Henry Rollins and Greg Ginn’s relationship felt a bit toxic, so maybe this one should just be ‘Damaged III.’”

Death in Vännäs
“So this is a reference to the Thomas Mann novel and movie, but also the place where I grew up, which is pronounced ‘Venice.’ When I was a kid, there was a story in the news about a Japanese couple who were traveling across Europe by train. They were in Stockholm, and they went to the ticket counter and said they were going to Venice. But they ended up here, not in Italy. That must’ve sucked. So it’s a funny reference to that, but it’s also about growing up in a small community where the pressure to conform to the ascribed roles is usually a lot bigger than in a city where you can find your own little clique of like-minded people.”

The Infamous Left
“This is a pretty violent, thrashy sort of song. It reminds me a lot of something that could have been on [1996’s] Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent in the relentless riffing madness that we’ve got going on. It’s a song about looking at ourselves and our roles in the political discourse of the day. One huge issue with the left is that a lot of times they’re talking above people’s heads. They’re trying to be clever and academic and smart, but a lot of the people on the right don’t want that.”

Economy of Death
“This is a song that Mattias, our new guitar player, wrote some riffs for. It’s his first riff contribution. It has this propulsion to it, this almost primitive power—so primitive that at first I thought it was kind of dumb, like a throwaway song. But then we started playing it live, and the reaction of the crowd and the way it felt onstage, I was like, ‘Nope. This is not a throwaway song. This is an absolute beast.’ I think it’s a fantastic closer for the record, because we’re saying if we’re going to keep complying with the economy of death, we’re f**ked. And that’s exactly what I’m screaming at the end: ‘You are so f**ked.’”

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