I decided to download “The Shape Of Punk To Come” completely on a whim, based solely on the rave reviews I saw on this site. To put it mildly, my decision was vindicated. “The Shape Of Punk To Come” is one of those rare albums that both blow you away upon first listen and then get better with time. It’s loosely classifiable as punk, but you certainaly don’t need to be a punk fan to enjoy it. Nirvana, schmirvana: Kurt Cobain wouldn’t have put out an album this diverse and genre-bending if he had lived to be a million. I can’t even put into words how powerful this album is, how much visceral impact it contains, how much utter steamrolling FORCE it hits you with. Dennis Lyxzen’s vocals are often pure venom, the guitars pummel you relentlessly, and David Sandstrom’s drumming hits harder than a brick dropped from the top of the Empire State Building. Listening to this album, it’s obvious how much energy and conviction was put into each and every song. This is music without rules, without reservations, and without apology. I’d love to play it for the 98-pound, Good Charlotte T-shirt-wearing “punks” I see at the mall just to see the looks on their faces.What’s even more important than anything I’ve said above, though, is that Refused were intelligent and methodical about their sonic destruction. As its title suggests, “The Shape Of Punk To Come” is a punk album in the truest sense of the word: it’s harsh, it’s abrasive, and it’s rooted in a deep sense of antagonism toward the mainstream. While all that’s nice, it doesn’t make for a classic album on its own. Fortunately, there’s a lot more to “The Shape Of Punk To Come” than stereotypical three-chord, two-minute testosterone fests. Thanks to a level of creativity and musicianship high for any genre but stunning for punk, Refused showed a keen aptitude for composing memorable and interesting songs.While suffering from no shortage of punkish aggression, this album is also filled to the brim with intense metallic heaviness, and Refused also threw in a few other genres just for good measure. Songs like “Worms Of The Sense/Faculties Of The Skull,” “Protest Song ‘68,” and “Refused Are F***in Dead” boast jarring, angular structures that could make a guy with no neck bang his head, but that’s not all. The album is filled with melodic, ambient, and even jazzy interludes, providing a nice contrast from the mayhem that’s often on display. “Liberation Frequency,” my personal favorite, starts out with Dennis’s subdued mantra of “We Want The Airwaves Back,” and then a barrage of paralyzing shrieks and piercing guitar noise comes out of nowhere. The resulting dynamic is so dramatic you may well need a neck brace after hearing it for the first time. In a strangely fitting move, the band decided to close out the album with an acoustic song, the oddly-titled “The Apollo Programme Was A Hoax.” After the insane roller coaster ride preceding it, I kind of like hearing a calmer piece that ends everything on a mellow note.Listening to these guys, I can’t help but think about how tragic it is that they broke up so early, not to mention how tragic it is that I just discovered them about three months ago. Unfortunately bands like Refused are too good to be on the radio, but this is what punk should be. No, scratch that, this is what MUSIC should be: inventive, challenging, uncompromising, and unconcerned with the opinions of the masses. The loss of a band like Refused truly is a loss for music.