Perseverance is a virtue that feels entirely necessary for bands to have to get anywhere, especially in hardcore. For a genre whose crossover potential is so limited, the drive to keep pushing forward and cultivating the strength of a core audience ahead of anything else really has more validity as an approach than any other, and it’s where a lot of the longevity for a lot of bands stems from. Just look at Sweden’s Raised Fist, who’ve been around since the early ‘90s, and yet despite having released six albums of generally high quality across the board, they’ve found the most success by playing to their strengths and doubling down on what’s worked for them up to now. Having said that, naming your album Anthems feels like a rather conspicuous move at trying to go bigger and more populist, especially when the band’s own assertions have suggested that melody and hook-craft has played a much bigger role this time around. That’s not an immediate cause for alarm – Raised Fist’s consistently solid track record speaks for itself, after all – but it’s interesting to see how, seven albums deep, such an approach will reflect an ongoing hardcore ethos, and how far the band are willing to go with it.
But when looked at from that angle, it also exposes the accessibility that Raised Fist actually have that comes without much compromise at all, and how great the results can actually be when given the room to cultivate that size as much as necessary. The easiest comparison point is a band like Rise Against, where the staunchly defiant mindset and punk bloody-mindedness is blown out into an arena-rock framework that sounds genuinely good, but Raised Fist seem to have a knack for doing that even more effectively here, and thus its anthemic intent smacks all the harder. There’s certainly a specific set of moves that have been made to get Anthems into that particular space, but they all largely seem worth it, as this is some really great stuff from front to back.
And going back to Rise Against, and especially some of the most recent material, it’s telling how Raised Fist operate on a similar broad scale in terms of their writing and presentation, but paired with an undercurrent that’s still firmly rooted in an underground mindset and ultimately shares a tighter connection with that sound. Sure, the lyrics themselves mightn’t amount to much beyond the defiance and camaraderie that this sort of punk often gravitates around, but it’s how they’re presented where so much of the impact lies, with Alexander Hagman’s vocals retaining their gravel-throated snarl that’s easily repurposed to fit into a scope this gigantic, and the enormous melodies brought to the fore on tracks like Venomous and Into This World that sound just fantastic. It’s not like there’s been any sort of watering-down here either, as the bounce and crunching guitar tone serve as the perfect complement for a sound that’s looking to shoot for the stars, but also surge forward with a very grounded brand of heft. It’s simple to a fault, but Raised Fist know how to make the most of it, trimming away any fat to tighten up the exection as much as possible, and riding an almost ridiculous amount of momentum from start to finish. It’s definitely simple, but when the level of quality is kept so high, the results speak for themselves, and Raised Fist stay focused enough throughout to barely put a foot wrong.
And honestly, it’s hard to say much more beyond that. Anthems is definitely an advancement from where Raised Fist have been before, but it’s also an attempt at something different that pays off in spades, and the fact that they’re able to keep that up over the course of an entire album is testament to how great they are at doing it. Maybe it’s a bit too late in the game to tap into that wider audience that this sort of thing would suggest is the end goal, but put them on the right tour and this is the sort of weighty but enormously accessible punk that will fly with no questions asked, and it’s something that this band deserve more than anything. They’ve been around for a long time now without really hitting that higher level of success, and the fact that the hunger to achieve that is still here so far in deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated.
For fans of: Rise Against, Stick To Your Guns, Ignite
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Anthems’ by Raised Fist is released on 15th November on Epitaph Records.