There are singers who use reverb as a crutch, and then there’s Makthaverskan’s Maja Milner, who would break any crutch she tried to lean on. Her voice is a weapon. The reverb is a sheath. She pierces through the mix on the Swedish band’s second LP, sounding both distant and shockingly immediate. She’s the scar a missile leaves on the air right before it hits.
II, which crosses the pond for the first time this month via Run For Cover Records, is a brutal, addictive piece of work that constantly spasms between hunger and anger. The band hooks back into the ’80s in sound and structure, but don’t use the throwback to patch a gap in substance. This is not a band that simply rewards you for liking the Cure. This is a band that asks you why you’d want to sit around and hear someone mope for an hour.
The bass is pure Cure and there are a few sharp nods to The Jesus and Mary Chain, but II comes down hard and fast, all auto-weaponry drums and anxious guitars. It’s a heartbreak album, the bitter kind, not the kind that sulks in its shadow. On “Antabus”, Milner breaks her voice open on the words “fuck you!” On “No Mercy”, she gets more specific: “Fuck you for fucking me when I was 17.” Maybe “heartbreak” isn’t right; that word implies a mutual bruising. Milner’s been wronged, and she’s pissed.
But it’s not all thorns in here. “Outshine” creeps closest to a straight-up love song on the record, and Milner sees no need to whisper about it. Her yearning rings as loud as her rage. “You outshine the light,” she wails. “I want you to know that you’re better than anyone I know.” Milner simply slices right through the backing riffs.
Much of what you need to know about Makthaverskan comes wrapped up in their name. It’s a feminization of the masculine-gendered “Makthavaren,” a Swedish word that means “ruler” or “the man with the power.” There is no female equivalent in the language. Like their name, Makthaverskan step in to fix the voids left in music’s male-dominated history. These aren’t goth tunes for sad girls, but punk songs for people who’ve come to realize that sometimes the healthiest response to their hurt is boiling, untamed fury.
Essential Tracks: “Antabus”, “Outshine”, and “No Mercy”