There’s a visceral intensity at the heart of Makthaverskan‘s music, amplified by the emotionally unguarded lyrics of vocalist Maja Milner. On the Swedish group’s 2014 track “No Mercy,” she delivered a searing moment of catharsis with the line “Fuck you for fucking me when I was seventeen!” Her vocals are so often beautifully sung and mellifluous that the rage or anguish behind them can be disguised, but there are surprisingly few filters. It’s easy to get lost in the dreamy post-punk hooks of “Vienna,” the leadoff track on new album III, but that ache still burns beneath the gloss and the shimmer. “You are all that I want,” she sings, setting up a relatable feeling of longing. But just a moment later she pulls out the rug from underneath: “But now you’re dead, you’re gone!”
On III, the contrast between the complicated, almost unbearable weight of lyrical emotions and the boundless energy of its post-punk anthems is seemingly heightened, making for an album that’s neither afraid to show its bruises nor shy about creating some new ones. Makthaverskan have more than their share of subtleties, but they’re often firing on all cylinders, expending every last joule of energy in order to create something that’s meant, whether physically or emotionally, to be felt as much as heard.
If the immediate feeling that comes to the listener is elation, that’s totally understandable. Makthaverskan, for all of the intensity they harbor, are an extremely fun band to listen to, or dance to for that matter. “Leda,” for instance, is a powerful burst of C-86 energy. It’s also the song on the album that features the line, “I wake up feeling worse every day.” Milner likewise turns that angst outward in “Eden,” declaring “humanity equals misery.” Yet nowhere is Milner’s catharsis as powerful as it is on “Witness,” a furious Siouxsie-and-the-Banshees-like ripper that opens with a magnificently searing scream. It’s the darkest, harshest moment on record. And it feels great.
Aside from being a remarkably consistent album—Makthaverskan just doesn’t do bad, or even mediocre songs—III is also one that’s draining in the best way. The band doesn’t hold back, and the end result is something that’s both demanding and extremely listener friendly. These are songs that are very easy to like, but they come loaded with some emotional content that not every listener might be prepared for. That’s what the gorgeous melodies and energetic rhythms are there for—to dance the hurt away.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.