6.5 / 10
Often when talking to people about things, I need to offer disclaimers as to give them an idea of the position I’m operating from. Things like, “Yes, Master of Puppets is the best Metallica album, but I think Load is great, so what do I know?” And if you think me mentioning that means one of those disclaimers is coming up, then you’d be right. Grab yourself a cookie before continuing.
So let me orient you as to my thinking here. I like Refused. Their back catalogue is amazing, and they are a seminal band. I also like their 2015 record Freedom, widely thought of as “bad” by many people who like them, so what do I know?
I also like War Music, released last year, and apparently I am in more in the “right” on this topic. So, here we are a little more than a year later, and Refused has dropped an EP, The Malignant Fire. So what is The Malignant Fire? Well, yes, an EP by Refused, but like, is it B-sides from War Music? Is it a way to get other random musical ideas on paper that they want to express? From what I can gather it seems to be more the former than the latter, especially since it has the track “Malfire” on both War Music and this EP, a decision that I’m slightly perplexed about, but fine, whatever.
In fact, I’m not entirely sure why this was released a full year later unless it’s just a matter of Refused wanting to stay fresh in people’s mind. Of course, like everything this year, the possibility exists that this is a “quarantine record,” something for a band to do while they have no touring to do, and I haven’t found anything stating anything to support or contradict this at the time of writing.
Regardless of why it exists, I guess the question is, should it? And the answer is, “… Yeah, I guess.”
Along with the aforementioned “Malfire,” there is apparently a cover of a Swedish House Mafia track, “Greyhound” as the lead single and video from the EP. I say “cover,” but more accurately it’s more like a reinterpretation, featuring instrumentation, unlike the pure electronic sounds of the original, and lyrics, something the original has none of. It’s an interesting song to be sure, but I’m not sure how many Refused fans are going to recognize it without reading about it online.
The other three original songs are fine: not the best Refused has ever produced but also not the weakest of their catalogue. This sounds pretty dismissive, but even at their worst, Refused is still better than 80% of the imitators that have come into the space since their inception.
Is it some revolutionary piece of work that will change your opinion of music? No. This will probably not even change your opinion of Refused, but it does have some merit to it if nothing else as a continuation of what the band put forward on their last album, so if you’re looking for a nice 15-minute jab of punk infused with hardcore, this is where to get it from.
Written by Andrew Wieler
*Edited by Chris Aitkens