INVSN – ‘The Beautiful Stories’

By Matthew Wilson

Dennis Lyxzén is a man who doesn’t do things by half. Not content to just front Refused, one of the most groundbreaking post-hardcore punk bands of the last twenty years, he also led the garage rock revivalists of (The) International Noise Conspiracy to worldwide recognition, as well as taking his hardcore side project AC4 to all the toilet venues of the world. At home equally on a packed out festival stage or in a dingy basement playing to a scattered crowd, Lyxzén pours his entire soul into every project he’s a part of and INVSN, the evolution of his long standing solo project, is no exception. Now a fully fledged band, they’ve returned with their second album ‘The Beautiful Stories’, a broodingly accomplished, effortlessly intense album of post-punk passion.

INVSN may be another notch on Lyxzén’s incredible musical belt, but this is very much a collaborative effort for all involved. There’s a willingness for Lyxzén to trade off his vocals with bassist and vocalist Sara Almgren, acting as a powerful counterpoint as their two voices mix and mingle with different vocal colourations. Both brood, both howl, and yes, both scream when they need to, yet despite the incredible array of vocal tonality on offer here, there’s never a moment the vocals threaten to overpower the music.

This isn’t a Refused album where everything is delivered with the intensity of a red bodied revolution. INVSN have a completely different sound to most other Lyxzén projects, a post-punk industrialism that has songs build over many minutes to intense crescendos before sputtering away into nothingness, like on the excellent ‘Bom Bom’. There are also crossover moments, such as ‘The Distance’, that sound like post-punk reimaginings of early Nordic electronica, cuts that with a few twists in production wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Bjork album.

And, on occasion, there are moments where the band sees red and bursts into points of unbridled aggression. The infectiously dark chorus to opener ‘Immer Zu’, with its malicious and savage tone is laced in venom, a tight, pulsing beat that builds into layers of guitars and overdubbed electronic drums. But the moments where INVSN don’t boil over are almost as exciting; ‘I Dreamt Music’ tempts the listener for four minutes without ever exploding in intensity, but still manages to keep you on edge with its intensity. ‘Love’s Like A Drug’ revels in its electronica and post-punk lyrics, dripping in nineties nostalgia, but never losing its focus until the final post-chorus blast.

For fans of Refused who are expecting derivative versions of that strain of hardcore, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you approach this project with an open mind, you’ll find that ‘The Beautiful Stories’ is an exciting, dynamic, sonic assault on your ears with a huge tonal variety in texture, and a commitment to a style of punk we’ve not heard much of in recent years.

MATTHEW WILSON

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