The cover art is the first thing you notice; a plain beige background with the album title rendered in arty, thin letters. Bit different from the usual abstract fare most crust bands employ; there’s no skull in sight. But Gothenburg quintet Martyrdöd are a bit more ambitious than your average band of cider-swilling crusties as new album “Elddop” proves over the course of forty-two emphatic and exciting minutes.
With other members recently stretching their creative muscles in progressive sludge titans Agrimonia and the band settling in well to their new home at Southern Lord, a label that has also branched out from its originally rigid parameters, it was inevitable that they would try something a bit different on this, their fifth record. Literally translated as ‘baptism by fire’, the title is apt for listening to “Elddop” is to be immersed in a plethora of metallic sub-genres, from raging d-beat to melodic hardcore, punkish swagger and plenty of melodic death metal. The presence of the latter can perhaps be explained by producer Fredrik Nordstrom who is usually seen working with the likes of Opeth and Arch Enemy. As a result of his involvement, “Elddop” is brimming with classic Gothenburg melodies such as on blistering opening track ‘Nodkanal’ and the infectious ‘Mer Skada an Nytta’ while the brief ‘Prasternas Tid’ could have come off an Amon Amarth album.
‘Victoria’ employs a few quirky lead melodies atop a simple yet relentless drumbeat before the crust begins to accumulate thickly with the restless and uneasy ‘Tentakler’, the remorseless ‘Slavmanual’ and the dual melodic leads of the title track which race along with abandon. All of these would sit easily on a Disfear record but are bursting with an eagerness and melodic spirit that is often missing in this genre and something that Martyrdöd seem keen to build on. The triumphant ‘Steg’ pushes several satisfying thrash and punk buttons in under two minutes before the sheer melodic magnificence of ‘Martyren’ takes things to full-on Bathory levels of epic with a gloriously catchy refrain that could almost be described as Martyrdöd’s ‘Fade to Black’ moment.
However, for all the experimentation this is still a crust record at heart. Most songs barely breach the two/three minute barrier and the delivery is still rooted in classic d-beat style. It’s just the guitars have been let off the leash and allowed to run wild, although vocalist Mikael Kjellman’s corrosive howl is a solid and ever-present reminder of their underground credentials. With so much going on, “Elddop” is a thoroughly enjoyable record that should unite punks, metalheads and anyone who thinks that there’s more to crust than ripping off Amebix.