The first two albums from Halshug consisted almost entirely of sturdy, catchy D-Beat that typified the band’s Scandinavian homelands. Drøm proves that you can teach old punks new tricks, provided they stay true to their roots.
Even among the more basic fare, there’s enhanced accessibility that comes from confident songwriting. Right off the bat, lead track “Kæmper Imod” is a thrash-and-bash attack whose riff will cause even the most disinterested heads to flex replete with a compact spastic metal guitar solo from Mathias Schønberg. He does that a bit more this time out, but his strength is still churning out fiery, kinetic riffs, and he does so throughout the album.
There are many occasions where the trio brush away the crust and reveal a more multifaceted band. “Fantasi” has a post-punk shuffle and ominously dark chorus – the track’s take on fantasy reflects the album whose title literally translates to “Dream.” “Giv Alting Op” is a slow, grinder whose bassline courtesy of Jakob Johnsen comes off as a thrash band trying doom metal (or maybe the other way around). “Et Andet Sted” sounds like one of those Black Flag numbers when they got all doomy.
“Spejl” is a direction that fellow Copenhageners Iceage could have gone in after their debut if they didn’t get enamoured with art-punk while “02.47” actually is art-punk, nearly three minutes of percussive industrial echoes. The fact that it leads into “Tænk På Dig Selv,” probably the song that would best fit onto the band’s previous releases is interesting.
The most compelling moment of the album is saved for last. Closing track “Illusion” seems to combine all of the aforementioned elements into a hazy yet determined five and a half minutes of metallic Joy Division dissonance. It sounds simultaneously like everything and nothing on the rest of the album that precedes it.
Halshug could have contented to be the purest of the D-Beat purveyors. Instead they opened up their sound. The band hedged their bets by still keeping a lot of what made them great, but the times they step out of their comfort zone are the times that make Drøm compulsory listening.