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Refused | Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent | review | metal | Lollipop
Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent (Epitaph)
by Tim Den
In 1996, a then-unknown Swedish metalcore band named Refused licensed their new album Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent to Victory Records for Stateside release, then toured the country alongside Snapcase and Earth Crisis (the latter having been the band's straight-edge role models) in support of it. Missing that tour's stop in Miami, FL would become one of my biggest regrets in life.
I received Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent literally a week before said show, and – since the impact of the album hadn't hit me full-force yet – decided to stay home that night instead of catching the unknown Swedes. Weeks of further listening and drooling anecdotes from people who did attend the show, however, would turn me into a raging Refused lunatic in the next two months.
Somewhere between the whiplash-inducing "Hook, Line and Sinker" and the haunting exorcism of "Last Minute Pointer," it dawned on me that Refused were much more than your average metalcore band. Not only were their Marxist/straight edge/anachro lyrics smarter than their U.S. heroes' (a comparison between Refused and Earth Crisis lyrics exposes one of 'em as knuckle-headed dimwits. Guess which one), their ferociousness was tempered with much more than just brutality and macho rhetoric. There was an understanding of mechanical punctuations and their effects on humans
a deadly rhythm that ensnared the listener. This band understood grooves, but to them, it was much more than moshpit breakdowns. The steam-train chugs were mathematical equations, perfected by scientists to yield the highest primate reaction this side of "Angel of Death." Yes, my friends, on Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent, Refused were a blinding light of momentum, doubling and chopping in half time signatures like physicists, creating the best metalcore album of all time.
Think I'm exaggerating? Opener "Rather be Dead" should convince you. 10 chugs of the same note, placed strategically over a made-for-hydraulics beat, and viola! Name another metalcore song with this much power. This much urgency. This much boiling-over-the-top passion. You won't find it. In under three minutes, "Rather be Dead" took metalcore to its zenith -and rendered it obsolete. Because, seriously, where do you go after such a revelatory statement?
For me, nowhere. Loving Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent intensely from '96 on, I would find myself less and less attracted to its contemporaries in the genre. Every other metalcore band sounded so predictable, so lifeless, so unimaginative, that I would eventually turn my back on the style all together. But it didn't matter, cuz I had Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent.
For the band, nowhere as well. Having hit the peak of metalcore with Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent, the band also felt that it was time to move beyond the limits. They locked themselves in the studio for the next year and-a-half, and when they emerged, they brought with them hardcore's answer to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And heavy music would be changed forever.