Written by: AP on 14/08/2014 19:45:17

I confess, whenever a band opts to use their native tongue, they have my intrigue. Martyrdöd from Sweden (their moniker translates to martyrdom or martyr death) are to me an unknown entity, but the ripples they have caused in the deep underground of crust have not escaped all - hence their credentials. "Elddop" is the group's second consecutive album on the respected Southern Lord, and upon chancing on the fact that Kurt Ballou & Jacob Bannon recently hand picked them as support for a European tour, the holy trinity of elements required to fixate me, to make me obsess about a record thus became fulfilled. Foreign tongue, a favourite record label, and a duo of mentors who have an unparalleled talent for unearthing smaller bands that everyone will be raving about in a few years' time before anyone knows them (to add credence to that claim, it was Ballou who first recognised the potential in a little known Norwegian band called Kvelertak a few years back, for instance).

It thus came as no surprise, pressing play for the first time on the opening track "Nödkanal", that "Elddop" is an album of the sort to force any and all distractions off the plate from the first verse. Unique and instantly compelling in style, the band's richly melodic ideas defy the boundaries of the crust movement in which their origins are rooted. They betray a flair and enthusiasm seldom experienced, of musicians who refuse to conform to petty truism, and opt instead to let the full expanse of their ambitions and influences unfold. This is a revelation which has not presented itself to me since 2010, when the aforementioned Kvelertak staked a bid for immortality with their universally celebrated self-titled debut and indeed, in Martyrdöd you will notice that same edge and burning passion for writing music.

There are heavy similarities to Converge here, true: guitarist/vocalist Mikael Kjellman's hysterical scream is of the Jacob Bannon school (albeit slightly deeper), and the instrumental channels - often paradoxically bright and positive against his frenetic style, yet sounding like the perfect match all the same - bow respectfully toward their idols' "Axe to Fall" album in particular. But it's more melodic; much more melodic, as witnessed by tracks like the lusciously swirling "Mer skada än nytta", or by the harmonious marriage of classic rock touchings, groove laden hardcore and pagan black metal in the following "Prästernas tid". That Kjellman's scalding screams are often willfully at odds with the music might, to some, sound absurd, but the juxtapositions give rise to dynamism, and make songs like these such an enthralling listen.

Where Martyrdöd truly excel and set themselves apart, however, is in the Nordic wash of the soundscape most prominently heard on the brilliant "Victoria" which, following a devious introduction, unfurls into an epic melody you would expect to find on the early works of melodic death metal bands of the Gothenburg scene such as Dark Tranquillity & In Flames around the 00:45 mark and again at 01:38; and on the immense title track "Eld dop" (sic) which enlists a symbiosis of d-beat pummel and dark, regal melody with that subtle undercurrent of traditional Swedish music slithering its way into the mix. It sounds as though bands like Amorphis, Bathory and Skyclad have all played a part in shaping Martyrdöd's persona - and no doubt revered producer Fredrik Nordström has a hand in it, too. He brings into the band's music also an ability to gleam the grandstanding guitar harmonies without losing the grime necessary to keep it within the aesthetics of crust.

Because Martyrdöd have no fear of toying with a vast assortment of tones and stylistic directions, the 14 tracks that comprise "Elddop" suffer from no lack of diversity. It has its standout moments of course as virtually every piece of music does, but it offers no decidedly weak points either, whether focusing on punishing hardcore ("Tentakler"), murky crust ("Slavmanual"), balls-to-the-walls metal'n'roll ("Varningens klockor"), or flamboyant instrumental ("Martyren"). It is an album which beckons me in the wake of every listening session; an album keen on divulging a hitherto undiscovered aspect to Martyrdöd with each new one. And in a year dictated by strong, yet not extraordinary releases, "Elddop" shines like the North Star.


Download: Nödkanal, Mer skada än nytta, Victoria, Eld dop, Varningens klockor, Martyren
For the fans of: Converge, Disfear, Kvelertak, Tragedy, Wolfbrigade
Listen: Facebook

Release date 21.07.2014
Southern Lord

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