Interview with vocalist Alle Hagman
It’s rare for a band to hit a new creative high seven albums in, but Swedish hardcore punk act Raised Fist have certainly pushed back against being typical. Their approach has always aimed to unify rather than divide, and that’s never been more obvious than on Anthems, out now via Epitaph Records. They’ve delivered big, bold songs that aren’t afraid to say something – but the energy is the most notable aspect here. Raised Fist are hammering it home with the best songs of their storied 26-year career.
There’s a sense of adventure that lifts this record especially high. Many of these songs are insanely catchy, but Raised Fist aren’t afraid to bring the big riffs either. Vocalist Alexander “Alle” Hagman describes the band’s mindset going in.
“The aim was basically just to give it 100 percent. No stress, no limitations in budget or time, but still not [to] overdo the whole thing. It’s a delicate balance, and if you tip off in either direction, it could become a pancake very fast. We wanted to feel like we did when we worked, produced, wrote Sound Of The Republic. I always felt that creative atmosphere we had back then was so nice. We have tried to replicate it in the past, but without success. I took the time to analyze why that writing process was so rewarding and fun, and I think I found the answer. We copied the same process, and it felt great! The mantra was always, ‘we don’t accept any shortcuts, it’s all or nothing.’”
When bands go in a more anthemic direction, they are often accused of selling out or going soft, but while Anthems is Raised Fist’s most melodic record to date, it’s also their most daring. This album feels like a reinvention, where the band pushed their classic style as far as it could go. There’s no creative regression here.
“I don’t think this album is daring in any way,” Hagman responds. “We are not afraid of writing our music, and we are not writing this for other people, even though the business around music is meant to please an audience. Our edge has never been about how melodic our music sounds. The Raised Fist edge is etched into our souls and woven into our songs, no matter what we play. This is very obvious in songs like ‘Into This World,’ where we basically wrote a Motown-sounding guitar riff in the verse. I mean, if you think about it, what other [similar] band could do that and get away with it? When we do it, it just feels natural, no one gives it a thought before I mention it. It’s because it has the RF edge.”
On a more elemental level, what makes something an “anthem” to Hagman? What is the central anthem for Raised Fist?
“In this polarized world, we try to deliver ten songs to reunite scattered bits of what was once one,” he answers. “When we crank up ‘Anthem’ live, we want the vibe to be old school hardcore, like when Gorilla Biscuits sang, ‘My room’s a mess, and I can’t get dressed.’ We leave the deep, political statements to the side, and just break down all walls in a massive pit. This record is our anthem! That is the whole thing!”
That said, Anthems is just as visceral and fiery as Raised Fist have ever been. Hagman’s trademark direct lyrical approach and occasional humor (the joke about the breakdown in “Anthem” is hysterical) is as sharp as ever, but there’s even more focus than before. That was intentional.
“I wanted to be clear and direct,” he acknowledges. “[It’s not as symbolic as] I’ve done in the past. These lyrics do not need to be translated, or even interpreted.”
Top photo by Daniel Holmgren