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Elddop Dean Brown , July 14th, 2014 02:01

In recent years the core focus of Southern Lord Records has shifted away from doom metal of the bowel-vacating variety to house a mongrel mix of d-beat-driven hardcore and crust; the kind of music close to the heart of label boss Greg Anderson, whose punk past prior to his time in Goatsnake and the mercurial Sunn O))) must not be overlooked. As a consequence of changing course, Southern Lord has gathered a host of grisly artists under the one stable (Nails, Hessian, Black Breath, All Pigs Must Die, The Secret) and, more recently, provided an outlet for folks to discover the music of forgotten hardcore punk bands who never really got their due (Bl'ast, Electric Funeral, Poison Idea).

All of this has been great for the back-patched punter, as the quality of the music released by Southern Lord has rarely been found lacking. Most albums range from solid to truly excellent. But from the viewpoint of each band on Southern Lord – notwithstanding the fact that this label always seems to treat its artists with respect – there is always a risk of being lost in the promo shuffle because of the close stylistic proximity of Southern Lord's current acquisitions. Therefore, there is an essential need for each crust/blackened hardcore band on that label to work harder to distinguish themselves from the rest of the wolves clawing at your door, vying for your hard-drive space and your sadistic yearnings for terminal tinnitus. (In fact, because of the mind-numbing volume of music released on a daily basis, the need to work harder to stand out rings true for all bands, regardless of the genre they're awkwardly wedged into or what label they're on).

Southern Lord's Swedish wrecking-crew Martyrdöd have done enough to separate themselves from the crust-pack over their decade-plus existence. By combining the raw intensity and hardcore punk ethos of Käng forbears Anti Cimex and Totalitär with the twin-guitar attack of classic rock and the epic Scandinavian metal of Bathory, the independence borne from this blend of influences and the overall ambition of Martyrdöd – who boast members of Agrimonia, Skitsystem, and Miasmal – has never been in dispute. With their politically-charged 2012 debut for Southern Lord, Paranoia, Martyrdöd managed to announce themselves to a larger, albeit still underground audience. The album was well received by critics and crust fans alike; its incendiary spirit and ever-increasing melodic mindfulness proved to be salacious bedfellows. As a result, there's greater anticipation surrounding Martyrdöd's new album, Elddop, than on any of their previous four full-length albums. And unsurprisingly, Elddop proves itself to be just as good, if not better, than its predecessor(s).

For their second consecutive release for Southern Lord, Martyrdöd have gone with producer Fredrik Nordström, who has worked with the likes of At The Gates, Arch Enemy, In Flames, and Opeth in the past. What Nordström brings to Elddop is his ability to gleam the grandstanding guitar harmonies without losing the grime necessary to keep the music within the aesthetics of crust. Additionally, the positioning of guitarist Micke Kjellman's scalding screams –right at the very forefront of the band's barrelling barrages– bolsters Martyrdöd unwavering underground stance. At times, Kjellman's vicious vocalisations are intentionally in contrast with the music, but such juxtaposition makes songs like the dynamic and deadly opener 'Nödkanal' and the classic rock heroism of 'Prästernas Tid' so exciting.

However, that's not to say that Martyrdöd are any less interesting when they just go straight for the jugular; all untamed howls, hacking chords and crashing d-beats, as heard on Elddop's direct crust contingent: 'Tentakler', 'Slavmanual', 'Skum På Världens Hav', 'Skeg'. It's just that Martyrdöd succeed because they refuse to repeatedly tread this well-worn path and instead cleverly vary the attack with the more dynamic tracks on the album. For example, 'En Jobbig Jävel's central turbo-riff revs threateningly and works brilliantly with the propulsive punk beats, giving the song the same uncontrollable burst of speed as the album's thrilling title track. While 'Synd' begins at a slower tempo, the guitars emitting smoky leads which then solidify into the kind of energetic thrash that Metallica failed to summon on Death Magnetic, though the song returns to the familiar Martyrdöd sound swiftly thereafter.

'Synd' isn't the only song to evoke Metallica however. As the high point of Elddop, 'Martyren' is a predominantly instrumental track steeped in the same neo-classical style as 'Orion', or the beginnings of 'Battery' or 'Fade To Black', although with an added Scandinavian bent to the regal guitar progressions. Indeed, 'Martyren' may be the most important song Martyrdöd have ever written. Its progressiveness may be an indicator of where this band will go in the future; its classicism complements the primal side of their sound like no other, showing the ambitious musicality that separates this band from their breed. So don't be fooled by Elddop's simplistic cover: this is no pretty indie rock album. Elddop is 21st century crust created by seasoned musicians who have studied and practiced the genre from the ground up and therefore know exactly what is essential to expand upon its creed. And if there is any justice in underground metal, Elddop will be the album that finally takes Martyrdöd to the next level, while the rest of the crusty conservatives play catch-up.

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