Martyrdöd – Paranoia (Southern Lord Records)

Monday, 25th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Sometimes all a person can do when a torrent of ills consumes their world is rage. Just rage and rage and when that’s reached an end…rage some more. A cursory glance at the Swedes who make up Martyrdöd (“martyrdom” in Swedish) showcases four guys who never really grew up past early high school, an idea made all the more manifest when listening to the blackened d-beat crustpunk they throw down all over Paranoia. Though song titles and lyrics are in their native tongue, they nevertheless paint a picture of rage, resistance, and ultimatums of dissent against any and all oppressors, no matter their form.

Resistance means no rest is to be found across the ten tracks and 42 minutes that constitutes Paranoia. For those familiar with crust this shouldn’t come as a surprise but for the uninitiated (like myself upon first listen) it can make for a cacophonous mess the first couple listens. With time however the fuzzy wall-of-sound production job starts to spill its secrets and the individual voices discerned. At the core of the raging beast is an almost constant d-beat played by drummer Jens Bäckelin. Though he occasionally throws in a different pattern (like the intro to “Nog Är Nog”) or the occasional fill, every other moment of the album is neck-snapping d-beat.

The ‘blackened’ aspect of the band’s sound is provided through the vocal and guitar work of main man Mikael Kjellman. His raspy bark is completely unintelligible (aside from a brief spoken section that floats overtop of “Hör Världens Rop”) regardless of the language being used, and his guitar work consistently runs from tremolo picking to constant chord blasting, with the occasional solo thrown in to boot. Guitarist Pontus Redig and bassist Anton Grönholm fill out the mix and largely play completely locked in with one another, though the bass is most appreciably heard through quality headphones, otherwise its background presence is lost in the noisy fury of the rest of the band.

And that noisy fury serves a dual role of being the band’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Through scorchers like “Klassfienden” and “Avbön” the band is driving and relentless, and the beginning riff of “Det Sker Samtidigt” absolutely fucking kills before kicking into the familiar d-beat groove. That familiarity that runs throughout the album and serves as its driving force is at the same time, its most resounding flaw. The pulse that underlies every song is almost unchanged throughout and largely played at the same pace, causing a smothering sense of sameness to permeate large swathes of the album. Listening inattentively can cause moments of ‘wait, what song is playing?’, though is not a problem unique to Martyrdöd – it is common across all forms of extreme music.

This isn’t to say the album is bad, not at all. Though peculiar that Southern Lord is balancing out its ordinarily doom-laden roster with a host of d-beat bands (Wolfbrigade comes to mind), here it’s a legitimate investment. Though the band sells itself short by conforming to genre staples (speed, baby, speed), unsurprising highlights are found when the band slows down to allow the songs room to breathe. Illustrated by the thrashy mid-section of “Ett Hjärta Av Eld” and the complete Viking shift of album closer “Varje Val Har Sitt Pris”, these songs are fantastic because they throw in tremendous variation on the band’s core sound (while still blasting their balls off). For genre fans this is likely a no brainer but for the rest of the world, mileage will vary considerably. All in all however, the album does not disappoint.

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