Veteran Swedish hardcore anarchists, Refused, deliver the shape of punk to come at Metropolis Fremantle last Thursday. While it was “white supremacists go to the beach” day elsewhere (see: Australia Day), old and new fans alike gathered to hear the anthems of liberalism live on stage.
I’m a bit disappointed in the Perth hardcore scene. Whether it was Australia Day or not, two veteran punk bands the likes of Sick of it All and Refused should have garnered a larger crowd. In saying that, while the former was unable to rile the crowd into a punk-infused furore, the Swedish kings of hardcore showed us what the shape of punk to come looked like.
Thanks to Fremantle’s tyrannical enforcement of paid parking (even after 6pm) I was late to Metropolis and missed the majority of openers, High Tension. What I caught was the Melbourne incarnation of Walls of Jericho, complete with crushing riffs and frontwoman Karina Utomo’s banshee-like screams. As I said at the start, I’m disappointed in the Perth heavy music scene. In 2004, the kids weren’t too cool to mosh. Regardless, it was great to see Utomo get amongst the patchy crowd and deliver her piercing vox literally in front of my face. Closing song, High Risk, High Reward, demonstrated High Tension’s ability to carry a full-fledged metal assault from start to finish. It’s just a shame the audience was lacklustre in their response.
This lack of enthusiasm carried over to second act Sick of it All, NYC hardcore punk legends who have been influential in the development of the scene since 1986. Without them, second-wave hardcore staples like Bane, Terror and even Refused might not exist. I’ll admit that I missed the Sick of it All boat, even when I was primarily listening to hardcore but I still recognised the legacy they have left in their wake. I was thoroughly impressed at even after 30 years of touring, frontman Lou Koller was still all over the stage like a possessed man, and brother Pete was probably the most energetic guitarist I’ve seen in any show. Their frankness was admirable as they admitted that they are now “old men still full of hate” and just as angry at the system as they were when they first began. It was a special moment to see the old punks dominating the circle pit, now grizzled and greying but still turning out to see the New York band for the first time since their 1995 appearance. The rest of the crowd finally sprung into action as final song Step down ignited the stage, and paved the way nicely for the final show.
The tension was palpable as singular downlights pierced the smoke infused stage. A deep whirring noise gradually grew before drummer David Sandström took his seat and heralded the entrance of his bandmates to a raucous applause. Refused kicked off their set with Servants of Death which was greeted with all the enthusiasm that was lacking for the previous two acts. The angry Swedes gave a performance with relatively older material, which was received well by the crowd. It would have been nice to see a larger selection from 2015 album ‘Freedom’, however, a back catalogue that included most of seminal album ‘Shape of Punk to Come’ and a few from ‘Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent’ was more than welcome. Typical of the (nowadays mellowed) anarchists, frontman Dennis Lyxzen addressed the audience with political and ideological messages, much of which is relevant now more than ever in a world overcome with conservatism and right-wing intolerance. Continuing through old favourites Deadly Rhythm, Summer Holidays, and Coup D’etat, along with new tracks Dawkins Christ, Thought is Blood and Elektra, Refused kept up an unfathomable pace. Crowd surfing and circle pits answered Lyxzen’s snarls as each song whipped up more and more energy. Before launching into New Noise Lyxzen dropped a powerful message on a fight that has been raging for generations “Why is it important to talk about feminism? Because men earn 17 billion dollars more than women. Because it’s still not safe for women to walk home alone, that’s why.” Fuck the establishment. In the new Trump era, we need bands like Refused to provide the anthem to our revolution. We need new noise.