On its face, the sort of bruising metallic crust / d-beat so lovingly cultivated and / or rampantly spewed into the world by Southern Lord of late would seem to permit very little room for experimentation or innovation. With Paranoia, however, the Swedish face-manglers in Martyrdöd are as pleased as the pope in Giant Hats ‘R Us to prove that assumption wrong.
Of course, this is still fast and horrifically pissed-off music, so the careening drums, flailing guitars, acid-throated vocals, and all-out velocity are still fully intact. The hottest new thing in nostalgic black shoegaze metal (NBSM, naturally), this is not. Nevertheless, what separates Martyrdöd from many of its predecessors and peers is an undercurrent of guitar-based experimentalism that never quite strays outside the genre’s signposts, but rewards repeated listening with a depth of diversity quite unusual for such a single-mindedly head-caving branch of extreme music.
All of this is to say that if you want to put on Paranoia, crank it dangerously loud and annoy your pets, neighbors, and eardrums, the album is a near non-step sledgehammer of thick but wiry d-beat destruction. If you want to drink it in a little more deeply, however, there’s almost always some interesting diversion or unexpected touch that draws the wary listener back to her secretly yearned-for doom. “Överkom Er Rädsla” features an oddly twangy, ropey lead guitar motif, and the drummer shimmies through some wicked tom rolls toward the end before diving back into the Dis-hammering, while “Hör Världens Rop” announces itself subtly with an underlay of scything melodic mischief swiped from black metal. The hardcore punch that opens “Det Sker Samtidigt” is another switch-up, and the muted chord changes that eventually underwrite the song’s chorus theme are almost triumphant.
Even the album’s more straightforward ragers have such a ramshackle enthusiasm that they cannot be written off as lesser fare, like “En Tragisk Zeitgeist,” or “Köttberg,” with its free-wheeling, rock-tinted solo. Still, Martyrdöd’s killingest moments are those that fly in the face of expectation, as when the snaky roil of “Ett Hjärta Av Eld” eventually gives way to a fantastically coiled mid-section of creaking taps and lurching bass, or in the title track’s whiffs of classic metal heroics, with its careful opening and bridge of patient guitar and pounding drums.
Tonally, Martyrdöd is closer to the straight-ahead mayhem of countrymen Skitsystem or Wolfbrigade than to the Swe-death influences of Trap Them or Black Breath, but partisans of any and all of the above (and, of course, of the almighty Discharge) will find a whole hell of a lot to smile about here. When the band finally eases off the velocity midway through album closer “Varje Val Har Sitt Pris,” it is a wondrous sort of thing, a cloud-break that lets you look back on a storm just gone and think, “Hot damn, what a ride.” Get this, get it loud, and get paranoid.