Makthaverskan would have made a killing in the ‘80s. Much like Tame Impala for the summer of love, or Angel Olsen in pre-Beatles America, it’s a fun (read music nerd) exercise to imagine this music transplanted back into the era which inspired it. This isn’t condescension. These groups have distilled the sounds of previous genres and decades into pure forms, abet with modern production. And Makthaverskan’s steely, but empathic post-punk wouldn’t have just fit in next to New Order and The Smiths, but may have even challenged it.
Makthaverskan explained that their name was a nonsense term for a woman with immense power. But much of the music comes from a deep well of vulnerability. Lead singer Maja Milner’s lyrics often come second to her sheer vocal prowess, but when she does belt out important lines, they’re wounded or pleading. Opener “Vienna” has her crying “you were all that I wanted.” “Humanity equals misery” she sings, making Morrissey proud on the ecological guilt of “Eden.” Milner has said that she views her voice as an instrument first, and she has the charisma and pipes to back it up. She’s the center of most songs, propelling them with her gorgeous, but steadfast singing. She’s not going to break out into a coo for a love song, she’s going to shout it from the top of her lungs. Her injection of anthem-readiness is well placed for the rest of Makthaverskan’s stormy brand of jangle pop.
It’s all “Here Comes Your Man” and “Age of Consent” guitar hooks, resting on church bell chime bass work and rapid-fire drums. Makthaverskan, smartly, don’t sound like any one band from the ‘80s, instead they’re an amalgamation of them all, picking only the best bits. Much like Twin Shadow’s Forget, which lifted Prince sexuality, Yaz keyboards and Depeche Mode theatrics, Makthaverskan choose their influences to support each other. The guitar heroics of Johnny Marr come through strong, with Hugo Randulv neatly creating shimmering, echo soaked lines. Peter Hook’s shadow looms large over Irma Krook’s bass work, but she pulls it off with aplomb. She personally drives the sugar rush of “In My Dreams” and holds the emotional core on the stark “To Say It as It Is.” Andreas Wettmark certainly shows off his punk roots the most, though he’s surprisingly dexterous as well. For every time he marches out the drums of war (“Eden” or “Witness”), he delivers an understated performance that perfectly accents the swirling beauty around him.
And Wettmark’s work further emphasizes Makthaverskan’s range. At their most rage filled, it wouldn’t be surprising if King Diamond covered some tracks and took them as originals. “Witness,” in particular, is a post-punk beat down of the finest order, mixing Joy Division’s most abyssal moments with Iceage’s penchant for manic destruction. “Comfort” is all scorched earth and hazy guitars, with Milner accusing some long-gone offender. “His mistakes took our youth” she howls, finding empathy with another victim.
The pop leaning tracks are every Cure kid’s wet dream. “Leda” is insidiously catchy, with the sort of “Boys Don’t Cry” guitar line that will have to be surgically removed from you brain. “Siren” moves at a slow shuffle before bursting into a magnificent chorus, spearheaded by Milner’s glorious, keening voice. Closing track “Days Turn into Years” is as hopeful as it is crushing. It’s windswept nostalgia, music to drive to while crying a single perfect tear.
In an interview with The Fader, Milner revealed “I didn’t want a song about a boy on this record but then three or four turned out to be love songs.” But she did a proper job of making every song sound grander in scope than just falling for some dumb boy. She holds that unique and unteachable talent of making every song a torch song, every heartbreak the apocalypse. With Milner, you’ve got a singer budding into one of the most captivating frontwomen of the decade and with III you’ve simply got one of the best rock albums of the year. Put on your Robert Smith eyeliner and cry, or sing, your little goth heart out.