Five years is a long time for any band to not put out a new release, but in circles of punk and hardcore, it’s practically unheard of. The exception to the rule is when you’ve put out a spree of albums so significant and critically acclaimed that you can bask in the afterglow. Such is the case with Stockholm-based Victims, whose newest album Sirens continues in the tradition of the fiery but melodic Swedish crust punk. Sirens does introduce a few subtle changes into the band’s sound, though, which makes it stand out all the more from their already near-flawless discography.
While Victims have never hidden their Swedish heritage through the use of harmonized guitar figures and the signature HM-2 guitar tone, it comes even more to the forefront on Sirens. The saturated guitar tone could have easily been in place on Entombed’s Left Hand Path, but the opening marathon of “Walls” and “Errors” are quick to remind us that this is indeed Victims. The opening two cuts re-establish the traditional Victims sound of energetic, triumphant d-beat that has just as many hooks as it does high-octane horsepower. “Walls,” for instance, utilizes an end section that has the blurred tremolo picking of black metal but maintains the signature rhythm of hardcore, and “Errors” anchors itself with a NWOBHM-styled guitar harmony before launching headlong back into its declarative chorus. These are the kinds of subtle changes that help to distinguish Sirens from the band’s previous works, and the effectiveness of how these dynamics work in the course of the songs is what makes it an easily replayable album.
The band still get down on tracks that come like a flash flood, though, such as the there-and-gone “Seven,” which transitions excellently into the driving, melodic anthem of “Storm,” arguably the album’s greatest single standout. Likewise, “Heal” finds the balance of the band’s minor-key tendencies toward more chord-driven vamps, while also allowing the bass to become a main feature of the song’s structure. On the side of songwriting and overall flow, Sirens is probably the most diverse set of songs the band has written, and their crossover appeal is stronger now than it has ever been.
Like most d-beat albums, songs blur together on the first few listens, but cuts like closer “Ashes” and “Behind” have enough textural variance to give the album to keep it from getting stale. “Behind” is definitely an oddball with its swirling, clean guitars over top of surging drum beats, but the verses are firm in their loyalty to the d-beat. Largely, Sirens is much like any Victims album (e.g., rock solid from top to bottom), but as mentioned, the evolution in their willingness to implement new sounds and tempos does wonders for this album’s longevity.
No surprise, Sirens is yet another excellent album from Victims and continues to build their reputation as one of Sweden’s finest musical exports. An essential punk album for 2016. ‘