Refused

support Halshug + Beyond Pink
author AP date 29/04/15 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

My decision to not attend Groezrock in Belgium this year suddenly stung a lot less when one of the primary draws of the festival for me, the legendary Refused, announced a club show in Copenhagen on short notice. Given the fiery manifesto which sealed the band's career in 1999, crowds have been divided with regard to the inevitable re-union in 2012, with some fans and notable musicians in the hardcore genre accusing them of ulterior motives such as greed. But personally, having never had the opportunity to experience them in their original format, I cherished the chance to watch them headline the aforementioned Groezrock three years ago, just as I do this second time in far more intimate confines. Fuck politics - the Refused are fucking alive!

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Beyond Pink

Beyond Pink, from Malmö on the Swedish side of the Øresund strait, have the honour of opening these sold-out proceedings with their brand of blazing hardcore punk of the old school kind, where precision stands second to attitude. Indeed, the quintet's songs are largely based on a few simple chords, the songs are delivered at breakneck speed, and vocalist Tijana utilises a shouting style of vocalisation; and it does not seem to matter to the girls whether a guitar solo sounds as though stitched together in no more than a few seconds. Musically, they bare the bones, with the inevitable outcome that virtually all of the songs played tonight sound exactly the same - a fact which reflects in a docile and reserved reaction from the audience and makes the show difficult for me to appreciate given my already limited affection for vintage hardcore punk. Tijana and especially drummer Patricia (whom some may recognise from Slöa Knivar) wear their hearts on the sleeve though, the former regularly kneeling or collapsing backwards to scream her lyrics lying on her back, the latter baring her teeth amidst lips painted blue and slamming the skins with terrifying ferocity; the two guitarists, Ida and Cajsa, as well as the male bassist standing in for Clara tonight, are much more reserved, limiting their expression to subtle rocking out. So the spotlight is very much on Tijana & Patricia, who pull through with admirable energy and provide sufficient compensation for songs that, in all honesty, do little to tickle my fancy.

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Halshug

Copenhagen born crust hardcore outfit Halshug were actually brought in as a last-minute replacement for Night Fever, who were forced to cancel their appearance due to illness. The trio's recognisable riffs and Southern tinge are instantly more interesting to me than the music of Beyond Pink, and while they aren't quite as explosive on stage as that bunch, there is nonetheless a transfixing intensity to the way they deliver their songs. Via their severe expressions and punitive treatment of the strings, there is a sense that at any moment, the two axemen guitarist Mathias Schønberg and bassist/vocalist Jakob Johnsen, might leap over the edge of the stage and jam their instruments into someone's throat - an expression befitting the dark and suffocating nature of their music. But despite the fact that Halshug are renowned for writing songs that, to some, must sound like cutlery in a blender, Schønberg takes care to inject just the right amount of melody into the maelstrom to prevent it from sounding like pure cacophonous noise; and collectively, Schønberg, Jakobsen and drummer Mads Folmer Richter balance perfectly on a tightrope of playing tight, yet still sounding unhinged. This is a decent showing by the trio, but honestly Halshug are best experienced up close and personal in a venue much smaller than this for their true nature to translate in the intended way.

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Refused

I'd be lying to claim the concert at Groezrock three years ago, of which I spoke in the preamble to this article, wasn't a little hazy given the beer soaked shenanigans our staff tends to get into at the festival. As such, my sobriety tonight is, for once, a welcome realisation in that the full extent of what makes Refused such an awe-inspiring proposition in the live setting will not be partially lost on me this time. This past week the band delivered a punch in the face of the naysayers by announcing that not only would they be releasing a new album dubbed "Freedom" this summer, it was also produced by pop producer Shellback, and naturally, it is to the tune of their newest single "Elektra" that the festivities kick off. And with it, Refused quickly set in stone that they have grown immensely as musicians since their swan song "The Shape of Punk to Come" came out in 1998: the guitars are laced with wah-wah and an 80's boogie feel, though by virtue of Dennis Lyxzén's characteristic vocals, the song still sounds distinctly like Refused's own. And if you ask me, the rock'n'roll touch is not an unwelcome addition, because in this song the band sounds more forward-thinking than ever.

And for those questioning the motives of the ongoing re-union and the effect it might have on the quintet's joy of performance: Lyxzén is on fire, full of bravado and swagger as he swings and throws his mic stand around, flashes his cool dance moves, flies around the stage like a man possessed, and leans into the audience to share vocals with the frontmost attendees. His colleagues - guitarist Kristofer Steen, bassist Magnus Flagge, drummer David Sandström and session guitarist Mattias Bärjed (whom some might recognise from The Soundtrack of Our Lives) - are less wild, but nonetheless perform with conviction, not to mention the showmanship of truly experienced musicians. Bärjed's 70's rock'n'rolla-look is a quirky touch as well, and given his enthusiasm it would not surprise me if he was instated as a permanent member of the band in the wake of this current tour. Complementing the stormy stage presence is a classy, well-sync'ed light show primarily comprising white and pale yellow light, and of course a half-Swedish, half-Danish audience boiling in ecstasy.

A moshpit is operational from the word go, but the craze of course heightens during the fan favourites "The Refused Party Program", "The Deadly Rhythm" (which features a snippet of Slayer's "Raining Blood" as a surprising intermezzo), a somewhat alternative take on "Liberation Frequency", and the mother of them all, "New Noise", which incites a veritable riot. The further two new songs "Françafrique" and "Dawkins Christ" aired tonight blend seamlessly into this mayhem, and watching it unfold awakens in me the familiar, but rarely felt sensation that only a truly special show can. It is so easy to become immersed in the frenzy given also the deafening volume and crystal clear, treble-emphasising sound mix - to the extent that the simple act of going to the bar for another brewski in the middle of it would be doing one's self a gross injustice: so much to see, so much to suck in. As Lyxzén points out towards the end prior to "Refused are Fucking Dead", the song's title is about as antithetical to the current state of affairs as can be, so if you're able, do not miss the band's latest string of concerts.

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Setlist:

  • 1. Elektra
  • 2. The Shape of Punk to Come
  • 3. The Refused Party Program
  • 4. Rather be Dead
  • 5. Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine
  • 6. Françafrique
  • 7. The Deadly Rhythm
  • 8. Dawkins Christ
  • 9. Coup d'état
  • 10. Refused are Fucking Dead
  • 11. Liberation Frequency
  • 12. Tannhäuser / Derivè
  • 13. New Noise
  • 14. Worms of the Senses / Faculties of the Skull

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