Influential Swedish hardcore band Refused became one of the most important punk bands of the '90s, playing punishing music that was as smart and committed as it was muscular. Purposefully rebellious, Refused took their revolutionary political views seriously, and while the clean lines and precision of their performances helped them win an audience much larger than most punk acts of the time, they did so while presenting a thoroughly uncompromised message. Refused's 1993 album, This Just Might Be … The Truth showed strong metal leanings in its guitar tone and heavy attack, but 1998's The Shape of Punk to Come was wildly adventurous in its mix of influences, eclectic attack, and sonic textures ranging from jazz to ambient music. Refused split up in the wake of their breakthrough album, but after reuniting for a series of live shows in 2012, they returned to the recording studio for 2015's Freedom, which was musically and lyrically as strong as their defining work.
Refused were formed in 1991 by vocalist Dennis Lyxzén, guitarists Jon Brännström and Kristofer Steen, bassist Jonas Lidgren, and drummer David Sandström. Debuting in 1993 with the EP This Is the New Deal, the group issued the full-length This Just Might Be…The Truth later that same year. The Everlasting EP followed in 1994, and in 1995 Refused brought out another EP, Refused Loves Randy. After 1996's Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent, they issued the EP Rather Be Dead; by this point, the bass chair had become a revolving-door in the group, with Steen doubling on bass and guitar for a while. 1998's classic The Shape of Punk to Come was hailed an immediate classic and earned the band an estimable international reputation. However, the group's principles didn't mesh well with their new status as rock stars, and Refused disbanded, unable to reconcile their anarchist leanings with a career in music.
Following their split, Lyxzén went on to form the (International) Noise Conspiracy, while other members created TEXT, among other side projects. The complete split lasted until 2008, when Lyxzén and Sandström formed hardcore outfit AC4. A couple of years later, Epitaph Records caused a stir among the band's cult following after posting the cryptic message "Coming Soon" on the old Refused website. Speculation went into overdrive about a possible reunion, before it was announced that the promotion had been for an expanded reissue of The Shape of Punk to Come, which came packaged with a live album and Steen's documentary Refused Are Fucking Dead.
In 2012, BBC Radio 1's Mike Davies announced the reunion of Refused, with the Swedish band confirming rumors of its slated appearance at Coachella that year. Following the announcement, Refused confirmed a host of summer festival appearances before indicating that their re-formation was for 2012 only. To cap off their year, they returned to their hometown of Umeå in December for a special performance. They were awarded the "Special Prize for Swedish Music Exports" by the Minister of Trade in 2013, and in 2014 Jon Brännström left the band. Despite claiming their reunion was limited only to 2012, they were announced for the 2015 Reading and Leeds Festivals, with Mattias Bärjed, formerly of the Soundtrack of our Lives, filling in on guitar for the absent Brännström. Meanwhile, Magnus Flagge (aka Magnus Björklund), who had worked with the group in the studio, took over on bass.
Refused's fourth studio album, Freedom, was released in June 2015, 17 years after The Shape of Punk to Come. They recorded with Nick Launay (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Killing Joke), while also turning to Swedish pop producer/songwriter Shellback -- whose credits include Taylor Swift and Britney Spears -- for lead single "Elektra." In 2019, Refused partnered with Search & Destroy and Spinefarm Records to issue their fifth album, War Music, a set of songs dominated by salvos against economic injustice. Rather than bring in an outside producer, David Sandström and Kristofer Steen oversaw the recording of the album. In November 2020, Refused dropped a five-song EP, The Malignant Fire, that included the track "Born on the Outs," an idiosyncratic reworking of "Greyhound" by Swedish House Mafia. ~ Jason Ankeny & Mark Deming