Archive for swedish hardcore

Review: Martyrdöd

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2019 by Magadh

Martyrdöd, Hexhammeren (Southern fuckin’ Lord)

I wrote somewhere, maybe here, that I always get kind of nervous when I hear that Martyrdöd are about to release a record. I can still remember when I first heard their classic In Extremis (2005), a record which rocked me as hard as anything crust record ever had. Ever since then I’ve been sort of waiting for them to drop off in quality. Sekt, released four years later, was good, but kind of didn’t live up to the earlier release. Paranoia was better but suffered from a bit of indistinctness that often happens to band that is tuned way down. Still, “Tragisk Zeitgeist” was a cut whose rage and power would not have been out of place on In Extremis. Eldop was great. List was better, especially the video for “Harmageddon,” with its footage of heroic women YPG fighters. Long story short, the bar for this band, at least in my estimation, could hardly be higher.

Hexhammeren opens with the title cut, a chugging, heal-damped jackhammer that gallops headlong into the darkness. The slightly more metallic picking style gives the music a different texture, swirling darkly underneath Martyrdöd’s signature melodic overlays. The second track, “Rännilar” (which I think means “rivulets” or something like that) gets back to the more mainline version of the band’s sound. But it is a pummelling track nonetheless, featuring yet another spiraling melodic line.

Since In Extremis, Martyrdöd have made their stock in trade the expression of the anger and sorrow of the world. That record was a barely contained explosion of rage and pain that seemed at all points ready to break the bounds of the recorded medium and to become manifest in the world, anguished and self-aware. Over successive releases, they have polished and refined their sound, but have never lost the edge of furious urgency of their early discs.

Something they’ve added to their repertoire since the release of List three years ago has been video accompaniment. The video for “Harmageddon” mentioned above was an excellent opening shot, juxtaposing footage of the band playing with clips of female YPG fighters doing the business against ISIS. This was particularly effective, not only demonstrating an interest in, and commitment to, actual struggles for actual justice, but also emphasizing the role of women in the ongoing struggle. The band themselves looked on the edge of desperation. Jens Bäckelin attacks his drum kit like a guy administering a beatdown to someone he hates from the old neighborhood.

The new disc is accompanied by videos for “Helveteslarm” and “Pharmacepticon”. The former is good, and has a slightly lighter tone than some of their other material. The latter gets back on model, showing dark and unsettling images over a chunky, mid-tempo cut with a melancholic melody, the sum total of which is quite unsettling.

The material on Hexhammeren constitutes a powerful reaffirmation of the validity of Martyrdöd’s approach. Songs like “Bait and Switch,” “Cashless Society,” and “Den Sista Striden” emerge like explosions of black flame, dripping with overdrive and raw emotion. Martyrdöd’s music is, in a sense, an aphotic apotheosis of crust as a genre, standing as a challenge to every other band to find new ways of fusing darkness and melody. Hexhammeren simply restates this challenge with the accustomed power and clarity.

Since their last record, they’ve had a bit of a lineup change, with Pontus Redig leaving and Tim Rosenqvist moving from bass to guitar. Filling his spot on bass is Daniel Ekeroth, formerly of Dellamorte and a bunch of other bands (and author of the definitive book on the early years of the Swedish death metal scene). So no worries there. If there’s anyone who knows how this music is supposed to sound, or how the bass fits into a band tuned down to somewhere around the key of C, it’s Ekeroth. If I hadn’t known this in advance, I wouldn’t have noticed the difference.

Maybe it’s something in the water. Or maybe they’re just all really depressed. For whatever reason, Sweden seems capable of producing a seemingly endless stream of devastating crust acts, and has been since the early 1980s. One can easily name a dozen such bands without thinking too hard, from Anti-Cimex and Crudes S.S., to Wolfpack and Skit System, and on to Myteri and Misantropic and myriad other groups churning out music that reflects the dark structures of life. Among these, Martyrdöd leads the charge, consistently delivering dark and punishing evidence of the world’s decay.

The world is going down the shitter. That is not news. But it is at least some comfort to be found in the capacity of bands like this to translate the sorrows of the world into forceful mixtures of light and darkness that have the power to block out the anguish of the lived crisis, at least for a moment.  

John from the Eastside

Review: Crutches

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2012 by Magadh

Crutches Demo 2012 self-released

I’ve never actually been to Sweden, but I’ve got to think it’s a pretty interesting place. For starters, they must have more anarcho-crust bands per capita than any place on the planet. Little did I know when I procured my first Crude S.S. 7”, back in the long forgotten days of the early 1980s, that it would be the start of such a fruitful relationship.

One problem that arises out of this for aspiring Swedish thrashers is that if you’re going to mine this vein now you’ve either got to be a bit ignorant or a bit arrogant. If it’s the former, it’s a matter of not recognizing that you will be judged against every band from Asocial to Wolfbrigade, with about a thousand points of reference in between. If it’s the latter, it’s a matter of knowing this and not caring, which is also a viable strategy. It’s often said that rock and roll should be played as if one had just discovered it five minutes ago, and this holds a fortiori for Scandinavian d-beat bands. This particular furrow has been so extensively plowed that the hope of finding some new twist within the format must be vain.

With that granted, I still believe that it is a thing worth doing. This is a powerful mode of expression; one that combines dissonance and dissidence, so to speak. It is a mode of counterhegemonic art and identity formation that still provides the opportunity to create a self outside the norm, and to forge connections with others similarly inclined to form identities outside of society’s norms.

It is from such a perspective that I had the pleasure of discovering the recent demo from Sweden’s Crutches. This is some angry, aggressive d-beat hardcore in the tradition of Anti-Cimex, Avskum, Diskonto, yeah, you get the idea. The recording quality is quite good, with guitars rendered in that razors through flesh sort of sharpness that the bands of the early waves of d-beat could only dream of. The most common failing of bands like this is to dwell to long on song structures that are too simple. Crutches avoid this pitfall, concocting short, angry blasts that leave the listener wanting more, rather than wondering when the song is going to end. You have to love a band that manages five repetitions of the f word in the first ten seconds of their first cut. They also get added points for most evil rendering of a squid in their logo.

They’ve released this demo via bandcamp and on their website. Head over there and get it. Yes, you! Do it now.

Magadh