Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 21/4
Written by: AP on 24/12/2016 19:07:20
With 15 years in the bag, Martyrdöd is considered as something of an institution within the hardcore/crust punk scene. But it was not until they signed with Southern Lord and issued their fifth album, “Paranoia”, in 2012 that eyebrows were raised, as people outside of the genre’s notoriously tight-knit community were alerted to the band’s existence. Whether it was due to the new label’s shrewdness is impossible to know, but the record drew upon the musical heritage of the Gothenburg-born quartet’s hometown to capture a sound unlike anything the genre had witnessed before. Their crust/d-beat roots branched out to embrace the melancholy grandeur of Scandinavian folk music (much like early melodic death metal did) and even a dusting of classic ‘70s and ‘80s heavy metal, eventually converging on 2014’s irresistibly catchy “Elddop”. The group’s newest outing, “List”, is no different, apart from entrusting the Nordic melodies with an even greater role than its predecessor.
In fact, as a logical consequence of Fredrik Nordström handling the production, it feels like everything has been dialled up a notch on “List”. The soundscape is as vast and imposing as the Nordic wilderness, dense in the low end yet also flush with the slight reverberating effect commonly used in folk and melodic death metal to achieve that signature epic sound. The savagery of frontman Mikael Kjellman’s vocals leaves an impression of Jacob Bannon (of Converge) and Tomas Lindberg (of At the Gates) screaming and growling simultaneously. And the melodies that lead guitarist Pontus Redig brings into the record, are Martyrdöd’s biggest and most shamanic yet, sounding like Ensiferum or Wintersun converting to hardcore punk.
As expected, it is these melodies that shoulder most of the weight in terms of generating lasting value. Kjellman’s screams are so acerbic that without a lyric sheet, finding a deeper message than animus in each song is just not on the table, and since drummer Jens Bäckelin rarely abandons the comfort of d-beat pummel, the rhythm department offers almost no inspiration either. But the way the volume drops halfway through the title track to expose a witching, folkish melody by Redig, which then wreathes and flows through the hi-energy discharge of the second half in an elegant, almost freeform manner, is certain to leave you gasping for air. Likewise, it is hard to imagine a better or more powerful lead than that which confronts you at the outset of the consummate highlight, “Handlöst Fallen Ängel”, growing and evolving until it bleeds into a classic solo that Kirk Hammett would surely be proud of. The bubbling hammer-on/pull-off histrionics of “Intervention” beg mentioning as well, though honestly, the entire album is chock full of such badass handling of the six-string.
Indeed, the traditional Scandinavian tilt of Redig’s wizardry, now even more pronounced than on previous endeavours, continues the distinguish Martyrdöd from the legions of other crust/hardcore outfits of the world and defies the monotony that often plagues the genre. The only hindrance for Martyrdöd is that they are so loathe to mix up the formula — with the exception of some transition parts and the calm intermezzo that is “Drömtid”, the band never takes its foot off the pedal, blasting ahead on a d-beat at varying (but always fast) velocities and leaving it to Redig to unfold his imagination so as to give the songs some purpose. On “Elddop”, Martyrdöd’s modus operandi was slightly more varied: it brought songs like the mid-tempo “Prästernas tid”, which sounded like a pre-millennial piece by In Flames, while others, such as “En jobbig jävel”, just enlisted a straight-up metallic hardcore approach. And even if Redig’s work here puts most of that record to shame, there is no escaping the fact that at times, “List” has the capacity to make you feel like Groundhog Day.
When all is said and done though, yours truly would still choose “List” over almost any other metallic hardcore release this year, because it actually sounds distinct. Martyrdöd have settled into a niche with no other occupants, potentially uniting two warring scenes in the process, and if the band can find a way to produce a more diverse offering next time, there might be no stopping them.
Download: List, Oemotståndlig, Handlöst Fallen Ängel, Intervention
For the fans of: Disfear, Tragedy, Wolfbrigade
Release date 25.11.2016