[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The year of 1998 provided a plethora of amazing albums from all genres of music.  “Aeroplane Over the Sea” from Neutral Milk Hotel, “Aquemini” from Outkast, “XO” from Elliot Smith, “Miseducation…” from Lauryn Hill, and “End Hits” from Fugazi are a few personal favorites that come to mind.  That year also spawned some epic turds from Madonna, Master P, and Eve 6 but I’ll save that vitriol for another article. (My disdain for Madonna could easily double the length of Moby Dick if I were to translate it to written word.) (Editor’s Note: On Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, Shameburger had this to say: “Fly a Cessna into her big, ugly, alien face!“) Those albums/artists aside, there was an album that was released that year that would forever change my perception of what Punk/Metal/Thrash was.

“The Shape of Punk to Come” from a Swedish band named Refused, debuted and would literally blur the lines and preconceived notions of punk rock and metal.  At the time of its release, I was still a JNCO/chain wallet adorned metal head who apparently had the world of music figured out while still in high school.  To add to my musical ego, I spent time hanging out in independent music stores, particularly the old Record Exchange at the Mission Valley shopping center (where the diarrhea-inducing DP Dough is now located).  That record store is where I used to sit at listening stations (a very dated concept) and picked the brains of all the cool kids who worked there in order to expand my musical tastes/horizons that would ultimately turn me into an insufferable music nerd.  Knowing that I was very into heavy metal and punk rock, a clerk presented me with a copy of “The Shape of Punk to Come,” which I took to one of the listening stations and was immediately blown away.  I vividly recall shooting a glance of amazement to the clerk once the machine gun drums of “Worms of the Senses / Faculties of the Skull” started.  He simply smirked and nodded his head with arms crossed in acknowledgment.

Very few albums can make you a diehard fan within the first few songs.  This album did that in spades.  Before track four,”Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine,” started, I became a lifelong fan of Refused.  I was ready to see them live in concert, to save up my allowance to purchase a t-shirt at that concert, to follow them obsessively to the ends of the earth.  And POOF, they were done.  Just like a cruel magic trick, Refused had broken up not long after releasing their landmark album, depriving their newest #1 fan the chance to ever witness their sonic assault live and in person.  That was 1998.

It is currently 2015, and still in a state of shock, I am here writing a review of the Refused concert that I witnessed this past Friday (7/31) at the Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC.  Even more mind-boggling, is that they opened up for Faith No More, another criminally underrated band that coincidentally broke up in 1998 as well.  I can not stress how excited I was when this bill was announced some months ago.  Seeing the announcement forced me to check my calendar to make sure this wasn’t some elaborate April Fool’s hoax.  Once I came to the realization that this was actually going to happen, nothing would stop me from attending this show.  Weddings, birthdays, graduations be damned, for you won’t prevent me from seeing a reunion that, for 16+ years, was just a pipe-dream or another baseless rumor on Twitter.

Refused took the stage roughly around 8 pm.  I was still in the slow crawl of the merchandise line when they started playing.  On multiple occasions, I almost gave myself whiplash as my head darted back and forth from merch line to stage.  Thankfully, their first song was “Elektra” from their new album “Freedom,”  an album I’m still becoming accustomed to.  Finally, with my Faith No More and Refused shirts in hand, I made my way back to my seats just in time to see them start the song, “The Shape of Punk to Come,”  Upon hearing that opening guitar riff, I knew this experience was actually a reality (17 years in the making).  Refused’s set was literally a mix of “The Shape of Punk to Come” and ” Freedom.”  Despite not being truly familiar with their new material, it did not lessen the energy of their performance.  Much of the crowd, despite not knowing the words to newer songs like “Dawkins Christ” or “Destroy the Man,” still moved and cheered since they appreciated the moment like I did: Refused was playing in our backyard. It was frontman, Dennis Lyxzén’s bravado and swagger that energized a portion of the audience that may have been unfamiliar with their musical stylings.  Despite their heavy and aggressive sound, Lyxzén exhibited the qualities of a “Mick Jagger-like” frontman as he twirled his microphone like a lasso and high-kicking in mid-air like he was David Lee Roth.

The truest of fans announced themselves audibly when Refused played their classic, “Deadly Rhythm.”  Midway through the song (where a jazz bass riff would originally be), the opening riff to Slayer’s “Raining Blood” ripped and echoed it’s way through the venue, thus uniting a crowd that may have been divided between Faith No More and Refused.  From then on out, those watching were fully invested in Refused.  To no one’s surprise, the apex moment of their set was the performance of their biggest hit, “New Noise.”  Refused did nothing to alter the perfection of that song.  They made no alterations or took any liberties.  The same rhythms and cadences of the intro were performed flawlessly, building the anticipation for the crowd to shout, “CAN I SCREAM?!?”  Everything beyond that moment became a blur over the excitement I was feeling.  It’s hard to comprehend why they didn’t end the show with that song, as they finished with “Thought Is Blood” from their latest album.

Regardless of how they ended it, it would take me at least 15 minutes before I utter anything other than, “That was amazing,” to my fellow RDU Music compatriots.  Refused, a band that broke up while I was still in high school, had just performed and showed no signs of age or rust.  To say that I feel fortunate to have witnessed it would be a gross understatement.  That privilege was only reaffirmed more when a stranger acknowledged the Refused shirt I was wearing when I out to dinner last night.  When I had asked if he was present at the show, the look of defeat on his face was priceless as he had no idea they had just played minutes from him only days before.  I will never take this concert for granted.  How many times have we discovered a band years after the fact, only to ponder how amazing it would be to see them live, at least just once.  7/31 was the day those “what-if’s” became a actual reality for me.  Thank you, Refused.  Thank you so much!

Refused Set List:

  1. Elektra
  2. The Shape of Punk to Come
  3. Dawkins Christ
  4. Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine
  5. Destroy the Man
  6. Deadly Rhythm
  7. Refused Are Fucking Dead
  8. War on the Palaces
  9. New Noise
  10. Thought is Blood

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